ALL BLACK FRIDAYS MATTER

Black Fridays just aren’t my thang. I’m just glad Christmas creep shopping isn’t spilling into Thanksgiving itself this year, and I hope it continues its retreat next year too.

If you REALLY want to celebrate the “reason for the season,” look for treasures this year, not so much in the mall or on Amazon as, in mangers in barns where there’s no room at the inn.

OR among “the least of these brothers” you find shuffling around alleys, empty lots, under overpasses and so forth.

There’s REAL treasure to be found in there: HUMANITY.  Humanity in a manger, a feed trough for animals! Hope there’s some leftovers for me!  Once you’ve had a taste of the Lord, you know he is good.

Peace, y’all.  Peace on earth.  Peace out.

‘TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE THANKSGIVING

‘Twas the night before Thanksgiving, and all through the church, not a single home took in a homeless person with which to celebrate the day. We got a 501c3 taking care of them, saw it on the news.  No need for the church to worry about serving this demographic.  In fact, they are better served by the professionals.  The church will do better to take care of herself and all her families and grandmas.

Homeless need a lot of help, and you must be wise about it too.  It’s too easy to give a bum a little money and make ourselves feel better when really, we do harm that way.  These people need counseling, They need drug rehab and job training and a host of smaller, more immediate needs which overwhelm a do-gooder fast.  So, yeah, giving a little money is a temptation which will make the do-gooder feel good, but the bum will spend it on booze making the problem worse in the long run.

Thus, it is good, really, when you think about it, that the church is not reaching out to help.  Thank God for the professionals.  It took two millennia for God to prop up his church with professionals and the 501c3.

Let this post then be a call to give your money to the work of the 501c3 and the professionals.  The work of the church is no longer needed down at the gates of hell.  And giving money to the professionals down at the 501c3 will not encourage them to spend it unwisely on an outreach industrial complex that creates jobs, pays salaries, and purchases office space, fleets of vehicles, and ski vacations all so the church doesn’t worry about a homeless person who needs a home to welcome them for the holidays.

(Convenient.)

BEEF STEW CONFESSIONS

I’m not lying, and I must confess… I’m going back for ANOTHER bowl of beef stew from two nights ago. I didn’t make it, but wow! I enjoyed it!  Three bowls in one evening!  Mrs. Agent X is a gifted steward of the stew!  I thank God for her, especially on Stew Night.

And I shared it with my little friends – the urchins God gives me through foster/adoption. My needy friends… My little needy friends who are SO NEEDY that I have to teach them to enjoy beef stew!

It’s not a hard lesson to learn. I’m not a great teacher or parent, and so I know the easy lessons when they take to them so well.  Beef stew is one of those.  Little Agent Rico is learning to love his dinner like What About Bob?. If you don’t know what I mean, google it – the dinner scene from the movie What About Bob?.  Only Agent Rico and I developed the mmmmm… mmmmm’s with physical gestures too.

But I digress…

My confession is this: Two- or three-day old stew is better than stew the day it’s made. (Surely, you know this already.)  But unless you make a really big pot, keeping leftovers that long is hard to do.  I didn’t get any yesterday, and there’s not enough for everyone to have another bowl tonight.  Point being, I’ve had to improvise.  Yeah. I make cheese sandwiches for the urchins and saved the stew leftovers for Mrs. Agent X and me.

Selfish, huh?

I s’pose.

So… I confess.

(See my previous post if you want context for this one.)

Now. please excuse me while I go get it ready for my indulgence.

A STEAMING HOT BOWL OF HOME-COOKED BEEF STEW

I can’t believe it. Nothing says HOME quite like home-cooked beef stew. You just can’t beat it.

Am I making you jealous?

Come on! Admit it.

I’m finishing ANOTHER bowl of it while I type this!

I can see the green envy glowing around the edges of my computer screen while I type it. Admit it! You are jealous!!!

You wanna know what is just absolutely heavenly?

Opening your home to a needy person and sharing some home-cooked beef stew.

Chicken soup for the soul can’t touch dis!

Yeah.

Watch a human being in sore need of a home sit there at your table devouring a bowl of home-cooked beef stew has a way of opening your eyes to a look behind the veil.

Someday, you are gonna die, and you won’t get the chance to see inside heaven again, this side of heaven. So, I urge you with all urgency to put on a pot of stew and invite a needy person in to share it. Do it soon! It is such a rich feeling to share.

Wow!

I’d say more, but I gotta run. I’m entertaining angels right now, and I gotta get back to them.

“…FOR SHE LOVED MUCH”

Just for a brief moment, lift this fraction of Scripture up out of context and let it roll off your tongue a time or two.  Actually, repeat it again once more while you are at it.

No.

Let’s say it one more time.

“…for she loved much…”

Yeah.

Soak it in…

We can go put it back in context now, but since we made it into a brief mantra, it will now standout in a crowded passage of many standouts. In fact, there is so much to observe in this passage, I will overlook several very powerful points just to sit with this one.

SHE LOVED MUCH!

Her much-love (or her abundant love – her freely given love; her reckless love; her expensive, over-the-top, shameless, and self-embarrassing love) is remarkable to Jesus AND is accounted as the reason for her being “forgiven much.”

Oh, yeah. Did I mention she’s a sinner?

Yeah. In fact, she is a SINNER! An ALL CAPS, bold print, party-crashing SINNER! Not a past tense sinner, but a present tense, trashy, tawdry, hussy of a sinner.

And she IS forgiven MUCH because she LOVES MUCH.

“…for she loved much…”

Take a minute and let that roll off the tongue a time or two again.

What does this sinner’s love look like?

Well, in this story, while Jesus is at the fancy banquet with some influential Pharisees and their friends, this sinful woman bursts in and pours her best sinner’s perfume on Jesus’s feet and starts kissing them shamelessly, weeping broken heartedly, and wiping those feet with her tears.

Yeah! She really interrupts that fancy banquet and all the trappings of importance. She makes a scene with her much-love.

That’s what her much-love looks like.

It’s embarrassing, really. It’s so very socially awkward, to say the least!

Have you ever loved Jesus much?

Really?

What did it look like when YOU loved him much?

Sit there and think on that a moment.

No… really.  I can wait.

.

.

.

.

Do you recall a time you loved Jesus much?

I do.

I had such a warm feeling in my heart one time that I am sure people around me could have seen me almost glow. I was just feeling the love. I think I had just listened to a really good Christian song, and my heart was enraptured with love.

Or there was the time I gave a lot of money to the collection. I’m not supposed to talk about that, so I won’t. Except to say I did. It was a lot of money, way more than usual. I was full of love for Jesus and felt convicted to give it to him. Of course, I insisted that it be used wisely by the ministry I funded, which wasn’t too much of a stretch since their wise use of funds was a large part of why I wanted to love Jesus with my large sum of money that one time. (It had nothing to do with me looking good or telling myself I was doing a good thing – not really.)

It’s right about here it dawns on me how different my much-love was from the love shown by this sinner that was so good it accounted for her much-forgiveness AND was even so good it made it into the Bible!

Her love was so spontaneous, so reckless and shameless. It was, presumably, expensive too since I am sure she didn’t use her bargain-bin perfume, but probably her best money-making stuff with a French name that sounds sexy to say.

And she wasted it too. Just dumped it on Jesus’s feet! Perfumed his feet! Who does that?

I mean, Jesus points out that the party people didn’t wash his feet at all, but I doubt very much they used fancy perfume for most of their guests anyway. If they ever used fancy perfume, it would be reserved only for the very finest of VIP’s, not for Galilean peasants like Jesus. They would sooner give a bum from Galilee a nice pair of socks in a “blessing bag” than to kiss his feet and anoint them with perfume. (And frankly, I get it!)

That would be a waste of valuable resources – poor stewardship. Jesus would absolutely frown on that. Right?

Uh… hmmm… Wait … ummm… I’m confused.

Anyway, she loved much and was forgiven much. Her expression of much love impressed Jesus! And that was my point in posting.

Do you love much?

Do you want to love much?

HOMELESS AND THE HOLIDAYS

Well, y’all, here we go again. Another Happy Holidays Season (“Merry Christmas” for the Politically Incorrect (correct)). It’s that season when you get all sentimental and maybe – just maybe – care about the homeless.

I have an idea for ya.

Go watch Planes, Trains, and Automobiles again this weekend, and then run out and invite a bum to Thanksgiving with your family AT YOUR HOUSE where God blesses you and America.

Oh… why Planes, Trains, and Automobiles you ask?  Well, that is an excellent question. I am so glad you asked.

Because it’s a holiday flick to get you “in the mood for” (charitable) “love” – for one thing. It’s funny and will make you laugh to beat the band!  (For those sensitive about “the F-word,” a warning here: there is one scene where the F-bomb goes off like an A-bomb, but at least it’s funny and makes a lot of sense with the plot (redeeming value?).)

But mostly because it’s about a rich guy who takes a homeless man home for Thanksgiving dinner.

Oh… you don’t realize he’s homeless until the end.  Oh, he’s not a beggar/bum, but he is plenty irritating to the rich guy who must overcome a LOT of pride and prejudice to find love for the needy man.

And finally, because you just won’t find my suggestion here reasonable/believable until you see it play out in a Hollywood movie.

Yeah.  It’s such a farfetched idea to bring home a homeless guy for the holiday. BUT, if you REALLY think about it, it’s waaaaay better on so many levels than volunteering at the soup kitchen for the holiday.

Yeah. So, let’s think about it for a moment.

On the selfish side: You still eat at home, all the traditional family vibe, the recipes, the hominess, the relatives, all that stuff is still on. I mean, if you go volunteer at the soup kitchen, you will basically sacrifice your whole holiday tradition to serve a bunch of bums, AND you will miss out on the good food and family vibe you so prize along with the bums.

On the selfless side: You will actually open your home to someone in need. Your gift of yourself and your home will be a far better treat to the needy person than the stand-in-line, take-a-number plate of food down at the HOMELESS shelter.  Instead, they will enjoy a HOME and the value of being a guest in that (your) HOME and this FOR THE HOLIDAYS!

Oh, sure it’s still a sacrifice. And quite possibly you will entertain a guest who is not well housebroke, not grateful enough, and who might even stink. But honestly, you have an Uncle Al who pretty much fits that description, and you CAN”T uninvite him.

But then there is the hidden blessing to think about too.  When you do it for “the least of these brothers [and sisters]” you do it for Jesus.  That’s right, you entertain angels unaware!

I don’t care what kind of F’n crap you believe after reading When Helping Hurts or Toxic Charity, the thing I describe here is actually biblical, AND the world needs more of it.

So, yeah.

Think about it.

And stream the flick.

And pray on it.

And then wish for peace on earth this year for Christmas.

God bless… America.

LET’S PUT TO REST ANY RUMORS ABOUT MY UNDERWEAR

So, it’s come to my attention that out there on the streets (or even in the blog-O-sphere) there may or may not be rumors going around about my underwear (or lack thereof). I want to go on the record NOW and say officially that I am wearing underwear, that I change them out for clean underwear regularly (practically every day), and that they are clean underwear never worn by another before I got them.

There.

I hope that settles that.

MEIN KAMPF WITH FAKE NEWS

I have outlined before, my long struggle with “fake news” in America these days. So, there’s not much new in this post except to point out the latest irony.

As a consumer of news, mostly on TV, and most of that from the three major networks, I come to these things like a slow boiling lobster. It took a long time for me to catch on, and when I did, I still struggled to understand. Even now, I think I do understand, yet I don’t think what I understand is represented in the lamestream rhetoric.

My first wakeup call and frustration came well over 20 years ago after leaving Phoenix, Arizona where one of the local news stations sloganed their program was “more news; less chit/chat.” I wasn’t sure if that really made their program better, but I certainly appreciated the effort! When I tune in, if the sensationalism, the chit/chat, and the gimmicks were all cut out, I could get the bulk of the information I seek in two to five minutes most days, I think.

But with that Phoenix slogan bouncing around in my brain, I began to notice how shamelessly NBC – especially on the morning news program called The Today Show – had devolved into infotainment with the strong emphasis on tainment. My God! The fruity Halloween costumes and gags looked fun, but really, I think you kinda had to be there. Right? Matt Lauer doesn’t know me from a hole in the ground! Why do I laugh at his gags? He wouldn’t laugh at mine!

Too much chit/chat! Too much fluff! Too much that doesn’t even try to be news. I mean, if you gave me the important headlines in a timely manner without excessive repetition, I would get what I NEED in less than 10 minutes, and then there would be loads of time for deep stories, human interest things, maybe even some stuff that was educational in nature. But no. Free market people want us to devolve to the lowest common denominator so NBC, CBS, and ABC will compete for morons to pay attention!

At the time, I didn’t think of this garbage as “fake news” per se but as fluff, as infotainment, and waste of my time. I came to dread NBC. I found the other networks doing the same to a lesser extent, but it was a sickness attacking all fronts. I understood, because I listened to enough conservative talk radio in those days, that the newscasters presented the news with political biases subtly slanting things in the direction of propaganda.*  At the time I wasn’t prepared to argue with that point, but I still sensed strongly that I was getting the news, basically, whenever these idiots got around to actually presenting it.

I still think that.

Oh sure, there are a FEW stories that go not covered by this or that network, but if it’s particularly spicy (Benghazi anyone?), you will soon enough discover that it wasn’t covered when the story comes out about how it’s not being covered. It might still be politically slanted, but you’re not missing the story! Not for long.

In more recent years, mostly early in the last decade, I found myself tuning in to Comedy Central on cable to get news commentary by Jon Stewart! I rarely got breaking news headlines from him, but he always made the effort at deep dives into the headlines I had picked out of the infotainment. His was a comedy act! This was not REAL news, and he openly confessed that. Yet, he went ahead and held himself to journalistic standards! When he occasionally made a mistake in his reports, he would offer apology and official retractions, LIKE A REAL NEWS OUTLET SHOULD. And I discovered my opinions being shaped profoundly by this program. He made far more sense of the news then I found in the network news or on conservative talk radio.

It was around this time I heard the term “fake news,” and I thought Stewart’s show was what the term referred to! The real news should be jealous of this fake news!  The fake stuff was better quality!

But then Donald Trump ran for president and took his gripe with the media to the next level calling out any news outlets not promoting him as “fake news.” Some standards! Well, of course, he had one outlet in particular which could find nary a criticism of him despite his many escapades. The red telephone in the oval office was rerouted to Fox News. This narcissist could literally pick up the phone, turn on his TV, and it was like primping in the mirror.

Look, I get it. That whole Russian collusion thingy he got impeached for was never proven. And I agree that until it is proven, he is not guilty of it based on our system. I will even say shame on any news outlet that thinks they should present him as guilty before it is proven.

BUT there was evidence suggesting a problem existed (still is) and investigating such a matter is fair game.  It’s something I want to know!  THAT part is not fake news but defending him and claiming the whole story is a sham before the case is settled is FAKE NEWS!

Here’s where I have something new to say, but really, it is more of the same if you see through it. Last night’s “announcement” by Donald Trump that he is running for president again is fake news! Oh, he didn’t make it official until last night, but he teased this event so much and so hardcore about it, there was no news in it when we came to it. I find it curious that the fake news media (the networks anyway) all chose to keep their entertainment programming without breaking this “news” when it came out.

I’m sure that is meant as an insult at some level. I don’t wish to congratulate anyone for the insult. In fact, I think it was appropriate for the cable news organizations to cover it; that’s their job! CNN doesn’t have a comedy show on at 7, 8, and 9pm to interrupt; they cover news.  Same for Fox News. NBC, ABC, and CBS all have news outlets that come on after the 9pm dramas. They all covered it. Not live, but they covered it.

Makes sense to me.

It’s not a narcissists mirror coverage, but it’ll do. And anyway, Trump running for president is not new, nor is it news. And, honestly, I’d rather watch The Bachelor! (And that’s sayin’ somethin’!)

I sure miss Jon Stewart’s news program.  That was fake news I could use, and often did.

But, alas, I struggle on…

*Today, I would argue that NOBODY is capable of a completely unbiased presentation of facts in almost any story. Stories are always presented through biased lenses of the presenters. I will appreciate efforts by newscasters to temper this phenom! Do you best to find neutrality on the one hand, on the other, admit your biases, and this is an honesty consumers can work with! But I wasn’t equipped to make that kind of argument when I was young.

ARMCHAIR THEOLOGY

Honestly. Is there another kind?

Perhaps there is.

Once again, I stray from my home base of expertise, assuming I have any. God’s love, the Bible, and homelessness is my real homebase. I am not a leading thinker in any of those, though I do a little lead thinking in them from time to time. Still… no one defers to me for my expertise.

No one.

Ever.

The only place I ever came across the phrase “armchair theology” (I think) is in a couple different places in the vast ocean of N.T. Wright books. I am certain he didn’t make a big point of it either. Gave it passing mention. I’m finding it difficult to recall the exact context. So, I will guess at it. I believe he contrasted some of the theology we get into today (in schools, churches, SBL conferences and the like) with St. Paul traveling the known world, mostly on foot, perhaps with a pack-animal to carry tentmaking tools and a few scrolls.

It was a contrast, if memory serves me, between a theologian in and out of jail, facing riots, and working his fingers to the bone for long days only to study late into the night and those of us with a cup of coffee or a latte at our side, a comfy chair, and perhaps some nice soft music having a nice devotional moment or preparing for a quiz in school.

What can I say? Something in the contrast stuck with me even if I can’t properly recall the book it was in or the context in which it was written.

I happen to belong to a church with a rich heritage of precision Bible study. The present generation doesn’t do our heritage justice, but I expect we are still one of the more biblically exact assemblies of believers. And that’s not to say we understood Jesus correctly either. You can know book, chapter, and verse quite well and miss Jesus (consider John 5:39-40, for instance). Yet surely there is still great value in know the Scriptures well.

But the question arises then: Is there a difference in coming to Jesus in Bible study from the comfort of an armchair and a jail cell?

Is it an innate difference? One which would invalidate armchair theology out of hand?

I expect if that were the case, we should jettison N.T. Wright books! (Which is not my argument against the point, btw.)

But I will say this much for that notion: A jail cell may not be a guarantee of a broken and contrite heart, but a comfy armchair certainly isn’t. I cared about the homeless (in theory) for many, many years before I knew any homeless people. I “cared” about them a long time before I ever took one home to eat, to get a shower, to sleep in the guest room.

Also, I came to a whole new understanding of Revelation 3:20 praying with homeless brothers against a freezing wind outside a locked-up church house door in the middle of the night than I ever did in school or any armchair. I’m wondering now if this difference doesn’t go a long way in explaining the disconnect between my church and me.

I wonder if that armchair theology isn’t a hindrance, at least some of the time.