OBLIGATORY FATHER’S DAY POST

Here at the Fat Beggars Home for Widows, Orphans, and Sojourners, the “Father” changes more diapers by 8 a.m. than most of you change all day!

Just sayin’!

(It’s better than getting a collect call from your kids for Father’s Day; it’s a real piece of the kid!)

BETRAYED WITH A FIST

For those few regular readers who visit here, you have noticed I frequently mention my self-imposed writing assignment (my forthcoming book) which I have been working on for over three years.  (It has a ways to go still, but I sense it is coming together and building up a steam these days.)  However, I have not mentioned that I am already exploring another project.

While the previous work is still in revisions, redrafts, and rewrites, regarding Christian hospitality, I am already jotting notes for another project, this one shaping up to be a collection of love letters for my wife but with a twist.  In this case, assuming it remains a collection of love letters and not morphed into some other style of presentation, deals with her work as a nurse, a nurse in the PICU particularly.

Such work takes a toll even on those who are “cut out for it.”  I doubt strongly anyone should do that work for their whole career, but maybe some people can.  Most people can’t handle the first bad day there.

Let me tell you something about the PICU they don’t put in the brochures: PICU is where kids go to die when they don’t die fast enough to suit EMS, the ER, or sometimes the OR.  If you got a kid in critical condition, but kept alive on “life support” waiting for the legal process to decide when to “pull the plug,” PICU is where you send the child.

And while not every child winds up in that condition, and while of those who do, some are innocent accidents or illness, most of them wind up there in that condition due to child abuse.  And a nurse THERE gets the task of holding the hand of that dying, broken, little body for however long it takes, sometimes accommodating the suspect/perp (since assigning blame is not a nursing task), and doing this with a professional attitude and demeanor, with composure and charity, for days on end.

How does a nurse cope?

Some drink.

Some pray.

Some quit.

Some wind up in psych facilities.

Some do all of the above.

My nurse?

My nurse plants a memorial garden (among other things (we adopt kids too, in case you didn’t put that together yet)).

The following is a copy of a few thoughts I have jotted down on the gardening notion:

Our Backyard Gethsemane

Our backyard has become an anonymous memorial garden with no plaques or tombstones.  No one, except you, really knows our otherwise beautiful garden commemorates the dead – dead babies in particular.  The lush green punctuated here and there with bright yellow, pink, orange, white, and lavender, speaks of life and peace, not pain and sorrow.

Only the nurse who plants this garden knows how really to read it.  Each flower is like a Band-Aid on a bleeding heart, yet it whispers a name hidden by HIPPA laws in a hushed tone so quietly only angels and nurses hear it. Manure piles bring forth life in God’s alchemy.  There is an invisible bee line from the PICU to this Garden of Gethsemane.

Jesus comes to the garden in the cool of the day to walk with the children and the nurse.  He sweats great drops of blood and prays there as lawyers and politicians fall asleep.  But the nurse plants lilacs and keeps watch as the life force of God and innocence is betrayed with a fist, and he assures us he will make this right again.

She’s a nurse, a healer, and this is the only medicine left after the end of the walk holding the hand of the dying child.  It is impotent medicine.  Sugar water.  It is the placebo, the fake pill.  But it’s all we got.

Don’t belittle it, though.  It won’t save a life in the PICU, but if you offend it, you might as well punch an angel in the face or a nurse in the gut.

This isn’t hope.  This is hope against hope.  It’s not wishful thinking; it’s love after it’s too late.  And God, you do believe in God (right?), is God after it’s too late.  In fact, that is his specialty, because when God is God after it is too late, THEN you know God.

I will quit with that.  Just a teaser.  IF you find this excerpt is good for you, feel free to leave an encouraging word.  I hope to develop this project too, and hopefully find my way into more meaningful publishing than just blogging for two or five friends.

Thanx

A REQUEST FOR PAM

I recently connected with Pam, a fellow, Jesus-loving blogger in Canada, and after following her blog a while, it occurs to me she is a resource I might from which I might benefit.

Pam, I wonder what take away YOU would have for ME after a study of Joshua 6, the children of Israel blowing trumpet/horns at the falling walls of Jericho.  The extensive attention you give to important Hebrew words sometimes inspires me, and I think your attention to this might really be of help for me.

IF you read this AND if you post on it, I will be reading.

Thanx!

AUTHOR UNKNOWN

We interrupt our regularly scheduled blogs posts with this bulletin:

This just in:

From Field Agent DC (earlier today), I received a copy of this poem called:

Shocked

I was shocked, confused and bewildered as I entered heaven’s door,

Not by the beauty of it all, nor by the lights or its decor.

But it was the folks in heaven who make me sputter and gasp,

The thieves, the liars, the sinners, the alcoholics, the trash.

There stood the kid from seventh grade who swiped my lunch money twice,

Next to him was my old neighbor who never said anything nice.

Herb, who I always thought was rotting away in hell,

Was sitting pretty on cloud nine, looking incredibly well.

I nudged the angel, “What’s the deal?  I would love to hear your take.

How’d all these sinners get up here?  God must’ve made a mistake.

And why’s everyone so quiet, so somber? Give me a clue.”

“Hush, child,” said he.  “They’re all in shock.  No one thought they’d see you.”

See Matthew 21:31 for details….

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As I say in the title of this post, I currently do not know the author of this poem.  If a reader here can leave me a comment with verifiable evidence, I will be happy to edit this post and include that information.

Have a nice day, and may you be shocked.

IF I CAN’T HAVE YOU, NO ONE CAN! (BANG! BANG!! BANG!!!)

It’s not the love of Christ, but it is the only “love” I ever heard of where you love the person you shoot.

(Murder-suicides!  Man, if they were just Suicide-murders instead, the carnage gets cut in half – sometimes more…  Still not good, but better than worst!)

I am troubled in my soul when Christians, when “the church,” can’t think past our own guns.

Guns are POWER.

That is what makes them so attractive.

And the three gods of modernity are Money (Mammon), Sex (Aphrodite), and Power (Mars) – thanx N.T. Wright.

We tell ourselves and our in-group people we need this power for self-protection.  It sounds so noble when put like that.  But when you unveil the apocalypse and reveal, apocalyptically, the truth behind it, there is a worship problem here.  And the church needs to address THAT.  THAT is church business to the core.

THE “RULES [OF] WAR”

Long before we had “the first two rules of Fight Club” (of which there are eight, but who remembers the other six???), Col. Blake told Hawkeye about the “rules [of] war.”

“All I know is what they taught me in command school.  There’s certain rules about a war, and rule number one is: Young men die.  And rule number two is: Doctors can’t change rule number one.”

Hard rules to live by.

The first casualty of war is the truth.

We are at war.

Now…  The first rule of Fight Club is: We do NOT talk about Fight Club!

The second rule of Fight Club is we do NOT talk about Fight Club!!!

Any questions?

SHOOT ME FIRST

WWJD in a mass shooting/active shooter massacre?

Any ideas?

The guy who took up a cross and accepted crucifixion as a divine coronation?  Yeah.  What would he do?  What would he have his followers do?

To be frank, I don’t have a quick easy answer, and I am not entirely settled on it either.

I am sure that Jesus doesn’t shoot back.  I am sure that his love, his sacrificial love, pays the price for others, saving nothing for himself.  I am also sure his sacrifice is for the deserving as well as the undeserving.  (There were actually 20 students killed in Uvalde the other day.)  And so, I sense strongly that if Jesus were to refrain from taking a bullet on our behalf, it would only be as a matter of timing (John 7:6).

I’ve been thinking on this quite a lot.  It is clear that Jesus loves sinners, victims, bystanders, cops, shooters, as well as IRS agents and whores.  He dies for them.  It is clear that his “love” answer to all the world’s problems doesn’t merely wave a magic wand and everything is put right.  There’s a lot of suffering and waiting for that yet to be had.

Of course, as an American, a voter, and all that, I want solutions NOW!  Call a congressman and apply pressure.  Right?  Go shopping armed and ready to shoot back.  Right?  Pass gun control legislation.  Right?

This gets a bit convoluted here for me.  I don’t see Jesus voting or expecting congress to get it worked out.  I don’t see Jesus shooting back or asking his disciples to shoot back.

I see Jesus dying on a Roman cross, wrongly accused, but dying, and therein setting this world free.

Wow!

But how?  How do I see that?

Hmmm…  I struggle with that part.

GUNS DON’T KILL PEOPLE!!!

You have heard it said, “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.”

But I tell you: People WITH guns kill people.

The statement: Guns don’t kill people makes perfect sense.  Absolute, 100%!

…in a vacuum.

You know what else makes sense?

Keeping guns (that don’t kill people) out of the hands of people who do.

Hey.  It makes perfect sense!

HE CALLED IT “SLEEP”

Those of you who read here with any regularity know that I have a peculiar fascination with St. Mark’s Gospel.  (Personally, I think Mark wrote with such mystery and intrigue that part – PART (and no small PART either) – of the reason Matthew, Luke, and John write their accounts of Jesus’s “earthly ministry” (as we are apt to call it) is because Mark’s came first and was so troubling as a stand-alone version that they wanted to provide more comfort with their supplemental versions.)  John (and Luke too, really) supplements so much that they give overt comfort to the difficult story.  Even Matthew’s account expands on Mark so much, that surely this is part of his motivation as well.

Whereas the other accounts, to varying degrees, allow and appreciate some mystery, Mark specifically puts his readers in a terribly difficult spot.  It’s practically impossible to rest here.  Difficult choices must be made, assessments and changes; repentance is a must!  Mark wants you to wrestle the Angel all night long just like Jacob wrestled the Angel of old.  The answers are there, but you will get into a spiritual headlock a time or two before you find them.

Some of these mysteries, then, are simply far more pronounced in Mark and left as loose ends.  I find more of them all the time.

In my estimation, these mysteries in Mark all point to the resurrection of Christ.

Is he raised?

Really raised??

Or not???

Mark does not present us the Raised Lord on some silver platter like the other accounts.  He’s there, but only if you answer in faith.  There is no triumphant resurrection scene in Mark.  Your conviction and repentance are required for that.  All the oldest manuscripts we have of St. Mark’s Gospel end at 16:8, which in the English is troubling enough, but in the Greek is all the worse.  The book suddenly stops mid-sentence, midway through resolving the narrative.  The women flee the tomb in fear and tell no one what they saw because… because… because…. ….  …. . . .  Hmmm…

Mark takes us to the empty tomb, but he leaves us with all the questions.  He leaves us with witnesses who do not go and spread the gospel, not across town, not across the country, and certainly not to the ends of the earth.

“(Let the reader understand.)”  This message is found in Mark’s “little apocalypse” (13:14).  It is one of the more bizarre clues to the mystery.  Its placement is as well.  Isn’t the whole let-the-reader-understand notion built right into any document?  Why explicitly say so in this one?  Why spell it out?  And what exactly is it we are likely to miss without this prompt?

Oh boy!  I am opening a can of worms, I know.  But Mark put that can of worms right in his Gospel.

Yeah…

But all of this I say so far is merely the set up for my post.  There is so much to say by way of set up, so much to say about resolving the mysteries.  I could ramble all day.

I assure you, MY reader, Mark does not point us away from Jesus’s resurrection.  Not at all.

In the biggest orb of possibilities, his message harmonizes with the other Gospels completely.  I believe that.  However, there are some micro levels along the way which do kingdom business down in your heart that Mark wants to address and address them in such a way as to get you to wrestle.  You don’t get this mystery handed to you on a silver platter.  Go to John for that.  When you come here, you gotta get some dirt on ya.  You gotta dig, claw, wrestle.  You are gonna get tired.  You gotta hang on to the Angel for dear life and beg for his blessing at sunrise.

This Angel will ask your name then, but rather than change it, he will write it in his ledger book.

So, the thing that gets me writing today is this: He calls it “sleep.”

Death is a plaything for God.  He slowly leads us through death and resurrection all through Mark’s account, only we don’t see it.  Not even at the end.  You seriously have to go back and read it twice, holding the Angel tight in your grip all through the second reading (let my reader understand) and you come out the other side in a world where the dead don’t stay dead.

For you and me, death is so final, so dark, so big and bad.  Eternity of oblivion at death’s doorstep.  But in Mark, it’s “sleep.”  And sleep is something you wake from.

Jesus says as much at Jairus’s house (chapter 5).  “The girl is not dead, but asleep.”

Every ounce of sweat we drip on the wrestling mat with the Angel in this passage tells us we are at death’s door and oblivion awaits.  Jairus may not be a bigshot in a big pond, but he is a bigshot in his small one.  He is a man of some pride, but he puts that all aside to make his request of Jesus because this is a life-or-death situation.

The pride aspect is not the usual focus for us Americans facing life-or-death issues today.  Oh, we suffer pride, alright, but if your kid is in danger and sick or hurt, you call 9-1-1 and expect EMS to come loudly and quickly because death is at the door!  Jairus is a little like a rural county, Georgia sheriff putting his whole reputation and livelihood on the line by asking this smelly, barefoot hippie-teacher with a reputation as a healer to come quickly.  Time is of the essence.

Can you imagine if you called EMS for your sick kid and the ambulance stopped for lunch on the way?  Well, that isn’t exactly what we have here; it’s more like as if on the way to save your kid EMS found another child next to the curb who fell off his bike, and so they stop to put a Band-Aid on the scratches before they get to your dying kid with the sucking chest wound.

If you found out the reason EMS took an hour to respond to your call was because of something like that, you would be livid.  I mean, just look at the upset parents in Uvalde, Texas right now!  The cops were just outside the door as their kids were bleeding to death in their classroom!  And the reason being DEATH IS THIS LIFE-ROBBING BASTARD OF THE DEVIL taking our babies!

Come on, y’all!  Wrestle the Angel!

And Jairus has put himself in Jesus’s hands publicly.  He is committed, but the hippie-teacher stops on the way to the EMS call.  This woman with the issue of blood has a serious chronic problem, alright, but it will keep.  In a typical triage situation, Jesus is getting this completely backward.  And not only is Jairus’s daughter about to die, but his pride, dignity, reputation is as good as dead now too.  Not that such is his main concern at the moment, but it is a concern, nonetheless.

The servants from Jairus’s house come along eventually, during the long-drawn-out wait, and tell Jairus, there’s no need to bother this “teacher.”  She already died.  It’s too late now.

That’s why the parents in Uvalde are mad.  It’s too late to save the kids in room 11.  They are gone now, and even Jesus may as well go his own way.

But Jesus insists on going to Jairus’s house all the same.  It’s too late, but why not?

Well, actually, even though it is a secondary concern in the heat of the moment, I can tell you why not.  Because if – IF – if there is any chance for Jairus to save face now, it would be better if we all try to forget we ever bothered the hippie-teacher.  That’s why not.  Jairus just lost a daughter, his reputation is in tatters now as well.  If Jesus comes now, it will only finish that off too.  But Jesus is God’s answer to the world’s problems AFTER IT’S TOO LATE.

And they go on.

And when they arrive, the funeral directors from Strange Middle East Funeral Customs Mortuary and Memorial Services (look them up in the Yellow Pages (I should collect a fee for advertising for them on my blog too!!!)) are already there preparing for the “celebration of life” service.

Well, I said that exactly wrong.  Actually, ancient Near/Middle easterners to this day don’t celebrate life at funerals; they mourn death.  They are not in some cultural denial like us westerners.  But in those days, they employed “mourners” to help secure a proper mourning.  You don’t want a dry eye in the house, and so you employ professionals to come help you ensure the place is properly crying.  (It’s a highly ironic notion for modern westerners, but if you think about it, it makes sense; that’s how you honor a life.)

And these are professionals!  They know a dead person when they see one.  But this hippie-teacher shows up and puts them all out of the house saying the girl is not dead but asleep!  And these professionals who know a dead girl when they see one begin to laugh at the absurdity of not only this statement, but of Jairus for trusting this weirdo.

In our modern era with its scientific method where data gets independently verified, this story comes very close to providing that in almost a laboratory sense.  By all accounts, this girl is dead.  She is a full-blown flatliner.  DEATH HAS COME HERE!

But Jesus says she is asleep.

Which is it?  Is she dead?  Or asleep?

Be careful how you answer.  If you say dead, you contradict Jesus.  If you say asleep, you may as well say that of Jesus at his crucifixion.  After all, the Romans are experts at crucifixion.  They usually don’t take condemned bodies down from crosses at all, certainly not before they are good and dead.  So, if you believe Jesus was miraculously raised from the dead, then you concur with the mourners here in Mark 5 and the Romans in chapter 15.

So, again, which is it?

Wrestling angels yet?

Me too.

Jesus raises Peter’s mother-in-law up by the hand in chapter 1, and she’s not even dead yet – not by anyone’s measure.  She is feverish, but as far as I can tell, she may as well be wide awake when she is raised!  Still, his action there was a “resurrection.”  Jesus himself is asleep on a cushion in the bottom of the boat during a storm in chapter 4, sleeping through an un-survivable storm that even the seasoned sailors plainly see is about to kill them all.  The storm couldn’t wake the dead and doesn’t wake this Sleeper.

And while we are on it, let’s reach all the way back to Genesis and the warning about eating from the forbidden tree.  “In the day you eat of this fruit, you will surely die,” (2:17).  But as we know, they do eat, and yet they don’t die… not that day.  On the other hand, in verse 21 of that same chapter, God puts the man into “a deep sleep” and performs divine surgery on him to form a woman from his rib.  This is not unlike the “deep sleep” Abraham goes through when he gets a vision of God at the establishment of their covenant (15:12).  This isn’t regular, Unisom sleep, y’all!

Jesus undergoes divine rib surgery in John 19:34 as a means of determining whether he is dead.  And as much as I’d love to conflate John with Mark here, I will stop with this observation, only adding that John almost certainly read Mark, and his offering surely brings comfort to the places Mark makes you wrestle the Angel instead.

So, why does Jesus say the girl is only asleep and not dead?

It appears to me that the Bible wants us to see God in command and not death.  Death is a dark reality, but it has no final say in God’s creation.

Of course, it’s easy to say that.  Living it is a matter of wresting.