Sparks Near Inferno’s Gate

By the time you read this it’ll be Thursday. It’s Wednesday headed toward Thursday fast, and I am trying to exercise a way to write just to write something. For those of you who might anticipate a high level of quality writing here, bless your hearts for still holding out hope…

Because, what’s the sign say over the gate to hell in Dante’s Inferno? Come on, you know this one. … No?

“Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate.” The most popular translation is “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”

The journey begins and to me it often looks like this:

I heard a preacher on the radio, I know that’s kind of old fashioned but sometimes I’ll hear something that’ll spark my brain in some way. Well, spark it did. I understand that everyone who reads the Bible is going to come away with something different: a specific understanding, a mystery to explore further, an interesting topic, complete confusion, and so on.

It’s Christmas, but I can’t feel it.  Not now.  I feel like Santa left sadness, disappointment, darkness, worry, rage, loneliness, pain, and helplessness behind, along with reindeer shit, in my stocking. Where are you, Christmas? Whoever wrote this song found something they celebrated at the end of the song; I’m stuck between beginning and middle:

If your reaction, to reading or to life, is complete confusion, I’m right there with you, and also I’m sorry to say that my recommendation is to read more. And so it is that with Sunday’s confusing events, and the hated translation, I hoped was butchered, I have checked the Greek. What can I say, I just have weird things that push my buttons. I went to my standard resources, and read and reread. There’s a little word tacked on at the end of Luke 2:14 in the Greek. Doggone it if there is no comma, nothing exact to explain the exact implication. It just says “eudokia.” This is one place where I think King Jim’s translators got it right, though. If there’s a comma implied, it’s SO much better for me.

Curious? Go ahead: http://www.scripture4all.org/OnlineInterlinear/Greek_Index.htm ; dive in. Would I steer you wrong? It’s FASCINATING, really. Next stop on the rabbit trail? I went here: https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?t=kjv&strongs=g2107.

In my study, I do not see any indication that “eudokia,” “good will” is conditional and implies the requirement of God’s delight in order for Him to bequeath the promise of peace. So, though the language in the translation sometimes used implies it, the original language carries no such baggage. Thank God for that. So say whatever you feel like saying, translators who want to attach boat anchors and 16 ton weights to God’s grace. People seem to delight in doing that. Like this:

You want to get into heaven? OK, work for it. Work hard and maybe you’ll earn God’s favor.

Um… How do I know if I did enough good? And …that doesn’t answer the awkwardness of the bad things still on my conscience, so how can I trust that?

I don’t think it works that way. I believe there are no such boat anchors, because of several internal reference points in the same document. You could go back to John 3:16, which starts on the foundation that God loves the world and wants to save us. You could go to Galatians 2:16 or 3:10, which pretty much close the door on us ever measuring up to any kind of approval from God by our own good work. Or Ephesians 2:9-10, which are even more clear. Or Titus 3:3-8, which interestingly enough, makes the point to call out lazy Christ-followers who say, “OK, I’ve accepted God’s grace on my faith. I believe it, so I’m all good,” and they sit and wait for the end and don’t help anyone. There’s a thread though which says it’s not our works that save us, or restore us, or bring us into any kind of relationship with God.

There’s a point to all of this, and I’ll get back to it. It has to do with this preacher guy on the radio, and he went all the way back to Genesis with something that bugged me a little. I mean, I’ve said (above) that there are as many interpretations or understandings as there are people, so maybe the guy’s entitled to his thought process. He was talking about Christmas, and how God came to Earth “in the flesh,” or “incarnate,” which is a big word that means “in the flesh.” What he was trying to get at was that Jesus, the baby who grew to become a man, came as God’s gift of John 3:16 -“God so loved the world that he gave…” Jesus was protected into adulthood, until everything was ready and he was prepared to pay for all the bad things I ever did. OK, yeah, all the bad things you ever did too. Despite all of the attempts made on his ancestors’ lives and on his own, and if you read the story you’ll see those. If Jesus’ ancestors knew about it, they’d have been scared to death for their own lives. But it happened, and Jesus was born, and lived until he was ready and until the time was right. He had to wait until Israel was under Rome’s thumb, so the message could be shared with the whole world. If it was just Israel, they would have just done this:

Under just Israel’s law, no Roman or anyone else in the world would ever know what happened except Israel. But under Roman rule, the message would be visible to Rome and to Israel, and to the world. Under just Israel’s authority, the stars themselves would make less sense.

Rabbit trail #2: The sign for Israel is Pisces, the 2 fishes. (See also Mark 6:41?) The sign for Gentiles (the rest of us), is Taurus, the bull. Right between the two, hard to see hanging up there, is Aries, a ram. (See also Genesis 3:21, Genesis 22, very importantly John 1:29, and also, like a button on the end of a great piece of music, Revelation 5, and there are more, I’ll get to one or two if you can stay with me.) The Bible is a tightly woven tapestry.

This preacher on his radio show, though, said that when Jesus came to earth as a baby, it was the first time He had been in human likeness, or “in the flesh.” But the more I read it the more I wonder if God was showing us how He was going to try to save us, all along. This preacher said that when God walked in the Garden of Eden in the cool of the day (Genesis 3:8) he was not in human form. You remember Genesis 3, it’s where Adam and Eve screwed up, disobeyed God and fell, along with all their descendents including me, and took all of creation on a ripping rollercoaster ride, a twisting, screaming journey to hell in a handbasket. Try to deny it all you want, and then turn on the news. For some, the journey seems short, but on a cosmic scale it’s taking longer than 8,000 years, presuming a young earth, but that’s another can of worms and I am NOT touching it. I won’t go back. But this message, this implication, it bugged me, because the guy has no way of knowing that, and no way to back the statement up. This preacher wasn’t in the Garden with God back in Genesis 3. My Genesis 1:26 isn’t at all unclear: “Let us make humans in our image, in our likeness…”

What I’m saying is not that this preacher was necessarily wrong, or intentionally saying something to mislead. What I’m saying is we all have to dig in to the Bible for ourselves to find our own treasures. It’s important that each of us do that. My assertion is that if we ARE in the likeness of God, “in [His] image, then He must be, in highest form, the pre-image of humans.

To the point, here’s one treasure I take from my digging:

What if God was enabling the restoration of the relationship broken by Adam and Eve as the slain lamb in Genesis 3:21?

What if God was restoring the relationship broken by Abraham, as the slain lamb in Genesis 22?

What if God was enabling the restoration of His relationship with Israel through the symbols of Exodus 12?

What if God promised the possibility of restoration in Isaiah 53 (see the Lamb there in verse 7?), written 2716 or so years ago? And finally,

What if God was offering, if we believe, to restore the whole world, as the Lamb of John 1:29, sacrificed at Passover in John 19, and raised in John 20?

You don’t have to ask yourselves these questions, but I raise them for your consideration.

John wrote in maybe A.D. 90 or so, which puts it at 1926 years or less ago, and the events of John would have taken place maybe 800 years AFTER the prophecy of Isaiah 53. If you’ve followed me down the rabbit trails this far, just read the last few verses of John 20 (verses   29-31). 31 is important. How did Isaiah know 800 years early?

Because if God did that, who am I to say whether He pushed my sorry ass into this pit of despair for some restorative reason? I HATE the pit, but if there’s some value in my being here, then eventually it’ll be fine. I’d really rather not. But I get to hang out with some of you, here in the dark, and you’re pretty cool. Maybe we can walk together a while. Or just sit here, it’s better with your company.  I’m not anything like the Lamb. I just talk about Him, just like John did. I complain WAY too much to compare myself to Him. He is, if you don’t already know, “…One you do not know. He is the One who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” (John 1:26-27) He can restore, or establish, a relationship with us, if I’ve read this right. I wish there were, but there’s no promise of any circumstantial changes. Only eternal changes. All it takes is our faith. I still have to walk through this shit for now, but eternally, I’ll be eternally better off than now. I feel abandoned, not that I’m nearly important enough to matter. But Jesus himself felt the same: “Eloi! Eloi! Lama Sabachthani?” (Psalm 22:1, see also Matthew 27:46; and, how did David know a thousand years early how that scene would play out?) It wasn’t just words to Jesus. It was agony far worse than I may ever know.

What if God pushed me into this pit of despair, or let the universe fucker push me, or let me fall all by myself, to encourage JUST ONE of my readers, to let me meet you, to reassure you of your beauty and incredible worth, to assert that God loves you in ways far more pure and complete and unimaginable than I am capable? To encourage you to have courage, and faith? Although I hate the test, although I hate the universe fucker for the whole journey, if you get it, you’re worth it to me. There are times when I hurt not because it sucks to be me, but because I know what you are going through and I wish I could do something that would effectively reduce your pain or just thoroughly and completely rescue you, but there isn’t anything. I pray for you, and can’t not weep.

Christmas is coming and I haven’t got anything tangibly helpful for you. I have a prayer for me, and may it be answered a thousand billion times, yes. And I have a prayer for you, and may it be answered the same, a loud resounding FUCK, YES!!

Here’s my prayer for me:

OK, I confess, that was a joke. Well, halfway. Because I really do want that for Christmas too. But here’s my real Christmas wish for me:

Here’s my prayer for you, and maybe selfishly I want a little of that for myself too. If it gets answered, the way I want, there will be enough for you to share.

I’m going to go to work when I wake up today, because if I don’t, I’ll think about it and start crying again. This time it’s not just for me. It’s for you too.

It took me a long time, but I think I know why I cried for me on Sunday: It’s because I’m broken. It hurts. And try as I may, I can’t fix it.

And I know why I’m crying for you too: I’m broken that we’re all broken, we live in a world that is killing us, slowly and painfully, and we can’t do anything much about it, except to be there as an encouragement to one another. I hate that you hurt, and I wish life treated us all SO much better.  But while we’re alive, I want us all to share an eternal hope, even if we can’t have peace for now.

Please share that hope with me.

~Deon

Get Lost With Me

All my life I was taught about asking directions,
As a young man I heard all the derision
That men were too strong, and men were too proud,
To admit they were lost and needed to be found,
But the jokes weren’t true, the jokes they made up
Trying to goad men into proving they were tough
Only made men feel weaker than they might have been
And made them feel worthless as all detoured to sin
So we ask our computers and phones where to go
Because deep down we wish we could somehow just know.
All I know is I really don’t know.
Take my hand, and let’s go

I’ve learned the reason for all the joking
Was so we would ask someone else if we are doing the right thing
And so we would feel weak when we didn’t know the way
So we would go somewhere secretly and pray
Do you really need someone who walks all that straight?
Reads the right signs, is that the best mate?
All I want is for someone to trust in us
And help me find my way back to trust,
And while I am wandering, soulless, unseen,
Will you please get lost with me?
Will you get lost with me?

Hiding in the Library

In the solitude of the library, I’ve found a corner to hide in.  No one is asking me to do anything.  I have a window view and the sky reminds me of the last month of my days.  Grey, not white, and now raining.  I brought my headphones and if anyone knew how loud I’m blaring Metallica’s S & M they would look at me funny.

But I look just fine I guess.  Middle aged professorial looking guy slouched in a quiet corner probably writing the next best-selling novel.  Except I’m not fine.  I don’t feel safe anywhere.  At home Mrs M wants me to “just” stop being fucking depressed again, and wants me to work at getting the house clean, while the dear daughter and son loaf and bitch about their homework or how tired they are of always having their friends bug them on the phone or in person.

At church I don’t feel safe.  I wore the mask today but I couldn’t sing and I barely paid attention.  No one saw me.  I wanted to say something in Bible Study and kept quiet mostly.  But I’m tired of feeling Psalm 119:99a.  I’m not being arrogant although it may sound that way.  I’m older, I have insight, the Bible study leader can’t prounounce the words, misses huge things I know about and they never even say anything about it.  I’m marginalized as a worship leader and then as a musician, with a microphone there for show but turned off, so why bother.  I quit doing that because I didn’t feel safe because I wasn’t appreciated at all, maybe God is trying to tell me something and I should listen.

Then the pastor makes some idiotic jokes and we’re all squirming awkwardly because it’s not funny but he thought it would be.  Or maybe that’s just me.   And when he finally gets to the point it just annoys me because I’m supposed to figure out that God loves me somehow.  He said the same thing that life has been telling me, that I’m not in control of anything.  If I trust Him it needs to turn out a whole lot better than it is.  If I were in a shred more control, I’d have a greater measure of peace, but that’s not meant to be.  In the music I felt safest, but I’m not safe at all.

The people at church we talked to asked about life because they wanted to pray for us and I really didn’t have any way of expressing this in a minute or two.  I just said it’s a lot of the same things it’s been for a long time and I said they could pray God actually helps us without further hurting us because I’m already broken.  And that was more honesty and self-disclosure than I wanted to offer anyone.  Mrs M said to pray I could find a better job.  So that was OK I guess.

I don’t feel safe praying because I asked God to show me He loves me and my teeth are still broken and my car is slowly breaking, already needs new tires and repairs and I dread the next repair bill, the furnace is still not repaired and it’ll be September soon.  And every time I pray that God will help me without hurting me, something else breaks, and again He has allowed something to hurt me some more and help is not on the way.

I don’t feel safely married because I want more than Mrs. M will give me, and I notice other women a little too much and sometimes wonder if they would.  I’m trying to ignore that.  I’m a little safer if I can pretend to not notice.  When I feel unsafe and I don’t have anything to give, that’s when my wife wants to take more than she gives. It would be easier if she knew how much I really need her to help me, but when I approach the topic of the best way for her to tell me she loves me, she’s mostly dismissive.

I’m not safe at work, because it’s politics and who you know (or who you blow) and I don’t, so I can’t advance like some others have.  I keep my mouth shut (there, that’s the whole problem, isn’t it) and do my work.  And I don’t like that when I ask other people to do their work, they either don’t do it, they drag their heels, or they push it off on someone else (me).  Every time I say anything they introduce me to a new system and tell me to do my job and theirs too, if I want it done.  Friday I carried two other people but I make less than either one of them, and I need three times the money if I’m going to do three jobs.

I’m rambling, maybe I’m not even safe in here blogging.

 

I hope you all are in a safe happy place, maybe you can tell me how to find one.

I’d settle for feeling more loved, by God and Mrs. M., more appreciated at work, but I need to hear more than words.

Abandoned

Inspired by a letter from father to son by Edmond Sanganyado
I love the spiritual blogs almost the same as I love any other blog that strives to encourage.  But right now…

Ndiri ndakasuruvara kukutaurirai kuti pasinei hurukuro motivational nezvaBaba vedu, ndine aneta. Colossians 3:21 “Madzibaba, musatsamwisa, kana vana vako kuti akaora mwoyo.”  (Sorry if my Shona is bad, I tried a translator.)  I confess My Father has left me feeling unloved, abandoned, empty, embittered, and very, very, discouraged.  My earthly father lately seems much closer and more helpful to me than my Heavenly One.

His Letter to me that used to sound loving and caring sounds empty and hollow.  I’m sinking under storm waves of hurricane-force depression again, my cries for rescue have been long ignored.  I know He knows what I need, and I admit, I’m alive and have been given much.  Still certain things that are bigger than I currently am cause me to stumble and doubt instead of responding with faith.  I know about Paul’s “thorn in the flesh,” and have been given several of those “gifts” as well.  (Is sarcasm the same thing as gratitude?)

There is no progress, there is no growth, and frequently I have no hope that anything will ever change.  He is capable of miracles, not that I’m entitled, but that He said to ask.  I imagine my feelings very similar to Mary and Martha at Lazarus’ first death, and my circumstances more and more similar to Lazarus’ health on that third or fourth day.  I have days that are all right, but whenever I feel that there might be an answer, that mustard-seed of hope is snatched away before anything really good comes.

IF, spiritually you’re thinking, Deon, you’re just a sinner and that’s why God allows your circumstance,  Thank you for your analysis, …what was your name again? Eliphaz, Bildad, or Zophar?  I will freely admit that I sin, inasmuch as it is the human condition and I make certain less-than-perfect choices in life like others do.  IF, spiritually, you’re thinking, Deon, “just” put God first, as this article borders on the spiritual I’ll refrain from expressing what I want to say to you, which is not so much a refrain as it is profane.  Similarly, if you’re thinking, Deon, “just” wait on the Lord, I’ve heard that forty-two million too many times to not hate that answer.  To me, that’s a useless, but scriptural-sounding platitude for “I don’t want to get involved even so much as to pray for you, may God bless you, now please go away.”  If that’s all you have, my God bless you, now please go away.

If the prognosis for myself is grim, how can I encourage others like I am supposed to? When I pray for myself it feels mostly ignored.  How can I tell others to pray when He doesn’t answer?  When I pray for others I get about a third of an answer.  How can I tell others He loves them when my prayers for them fall on deaf ears?  I have a friend who needs some help and I’ve asked God (and others) to intervene, and her burden has yet to be lifted.  And I need help and I’ve asked God and it’s only gotten heavier and more impossible.  I’m tempted to joke about God the way Elijah joked about Baal, at the risk of fire coming from heaven and burning ME up along with the other stubborn oxen on the altar.  How can I lead my family toward God when my faith is so very badly shaken?

I just need this circumstance to be miraculously resolved.  I’ve started praying for God to help me without hurting me, because any more, it hurts and things only seem to get worse.  I said “just” which is a trigger word for me because when someone says I should “just” do whatever, to fix myself, it makes me enraged.  If I could “just” fix it myself, I would have done that already.  But for God, nothing is impossible, so if He wants to, he can “just” fix it.  He doesn’t even have to involve any people in the process, it can “just” happen.

I would like His letter to His children to offer this son encouragement, refreshing, and reassurance that His letter is the very Word of Truth.

Motivational Speech

On the day before yesterday,
I felt like total crap.
Stumbled and failed on my way,
Wished I could take a nap

So yesterday I decided
It was  all in my head.
Positive thinking without dread
Would steer how time was led.

I read that prayer and believing
Would insure my success!
I just knew I’d start receiving
Relief from any stress.

Then yesterday wasn’t better:
I tried to be happy,
I tried to be a go-getter,
And failed miserably.

Today, success books and  web links
Went straight into the trash.
Got my Bible and a stiff drink,
Read Psalms and sipped sour mash.

The psalmist confirmed suspicions:
God’s on His own schedule,
Answers yes to some petitions,
And not all as a rule.

I read God will sometimes surprise
I just hate to say it.
All you motivation wise guys:
Your “wisdom’s” pure bullshit.

Ranty

I’ve got my ranties all in a bunch today.  Somebody stop me.  Or not.

I’m also about to slag and mercilessly delete half my inbound emails without reading them.  Sorry, everyone who cares if I read them.

I’m just feeling rage and hopelessness and general irritation depending on which second you approach.  Don’t worry, it’s not about you.

I’m irritated the politicians try to oversimplify and the news media are trying to sell their favorite candidates.  I’m worried some idiot (here read “no Muslims, Mexicans, or fat ugly chicks”) or worse, someone who’s had nothing but conspiracy and cover-up her whole life (and a husband who couldn’t keep it covered up) is going to get into the presidency.

The politicians, both Democratic and Republican, all seem to want to lump “people with mental illness” into a group of “people who should not be allowed to have guns.”  This is offensive and very upsetting.  They want a fucking REGISTRY, for fucks sake, of “people with mental illness,” so they can deprive us of our civil rights.  I’ve said before, not all people with mental illnesses are lunatics bent on shooting their neighbors, friends, families, employers, places of business or random victims.

Criminals don’t have mental illnesses, they just like to commit crime.  Therefore, if you’re a potential criminal, you may very well find it easier to get a license for a gun than someone with a registered mental illness.  This means, if legislation is passed upon them, “people with mental illnesses” are sitting targets not allowed to defend themselves against “criminals with guns.”

I’m irritated there wasn’t more of a fuss when Obama pointed fingers at anyone but his fair home city of Chicago because they have an illegal gun problem there.  Indiana is not the problem.  Law-abiding citizens in Indiana are not giving crooks from Illinois their guns, nor even selling them, so restricting law abiding citizens isn’t going to have any positive effect; I expect the opposite.  The problem is criminals in Chicago are able to obtain illegal guns by criminal means.  Further, the problem includes the law-abiding citizens aren’t allowed to have guns to shoot back when a gang-banger is aiming to shoot someone’s little baby dead while driving by.  Because officially, they can’t have guns.  They have to wait for Chicago PD to come by, with a hearse to pick up the body.

I’m further ranty because today’s a holiday and I have to work.  Is it a holiday or isn’t it?  My company says “it’s a holiday, but just not for you or people in your department.”  So I know there are at least 2 other people in another office working.  And they labor hard and long to not pay extra whenever they can put a legal spin on it and tell me it’s overtime but not “qualified overtime” so they don’t have to pay me extra for dragging my ass out of my warm bed and into my frozen car and driving in to the office.  On a holiday.

They say “money talks, B.S. walks.”  Wish I’d won the lottery so I could call myself B.S.  God knows no one else would own up to it.  But in truth, I think, whoever “they” are, they got it back assward.  Or not mixed right.  On the one candidate’s side, she’s got the BS and it’s talking.  And on the other candidate’s side, he’s got the BS AND the money and they’re both talking.  And I wish they’d both shut the hell up.

Back in the day, I’d like to daydream that the village idiot was labelled and not allowed to talk too long or handle important things.  I’d like to daydream that the secretly crafty person was exposed as a cheating traitorous liar and thrown in jail but I don’t think that ever happens.  But today, they throw the idiot money and hand the idiot the master key and the microphone.  I’m not sure which is worse:  an openly stupid person, an openly crafty person, or a secretly crafty person, and we get all of these kinds in political office somehow.

My pastor, bless his heart, says I feel the way I feel because I’m not spiritually centered.  Oh really, is it that simple?  Then, oh wise and wonderful one, how shall I center myself?  On my reading program that I don’t have time or motivation to complete, on a random spiritual epiphany you’ll swear is coming but hasn’t in, oh, a decade or two or maybe three, on prayer that I do all the time and don’t feel I’m getting the answers I want because I’m spiritually off-center?  Oh there’s a grand circle of spiritual shit to be stuck in, isn’t it?  And if it’s a circle that explains my emotional and mental sine wave, and periodic dips into the black holes of fuck-everything-everybody-and-everywhere-including-me,” doesn’t it?  It’s unfortunate that it’s a lie that what you don’t know can’t hurt you.  Because what others don’t know can definitely hurt me- ignorance of my mental capacity (highly intelligent, very kindhearted, tries to get along with others, not a lunatic, only a little bit batshit) can cause powerful people to make unfavorable decisions about me over which I have no control, and what I don’t know (how to get rich and escape the general infestation quickly, how to succeed at one set of goals while feeling chained to another set of oars and oar-locks, how to help myself well and then help others, how to convince powerful people who wouldn’t give me the time of day that I’m right about everything)…definitely hurts

I wonder if I only think I’m batshit because I’m stuck here and the rest of the world IS…

I’m also ranty because I’m aware that I’m not making any progress toward any personal goals.  I’m distracted half the time, and the rest I don’t have the energy to make it.  Back in the ages of history, people who were creative were not just tolerated, they were celebrated, enjoyed, patronized, enabled to pursue their craft.

What I need is a patron.  But I’m not well-known enough to attract that kind of money.  Or a jail cell, but I’m not secretly crafty enough for that to ever happen.  Plus, I have a conscience.

Stealer’s Wheel got it right, there’s “Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am stuck in the middle with you.”  But at least my misery loves your company.

Tedious Tuesday

I wish this were a funny post.  But it’s not turning out that way.  Today I was looking for a word that described my feelings that started with a “t,” for Tuesday, but alas could not find one or think of one until I actually started typing and fell on one.  I started with tumultuous but today is anything but that.  Seriously if the word I fell on had been sharp in any way I would have seriously injured myself with the following statements, but it’s not.  Today is not “tumultuous.”  Thank God for small favors.  Today is boring, meh, blah, dull, tedious…  aha!

Yeah I got jealous with all of the trying-too-hard-to-be-encouraging-and-inspiring-but-ending-up-being-tedious blogs.  I love you all for doing them, and I’m grateful to see there are still believers out there for whom it works:  You know them: Metamorphosis Monday, Triumphant Tuesday, Winning Wednesday…  I WISH it were that simple for me but it doesn’t work:  just think positive thoughts, simply ask the universe or God or whatever for what you need and what you want, do what you love doing and watch the whole thing fall perfectly into place, complete with unicorns farting rainbows and sunshine and other happy shit.  However, It’s not.  So I thought, fuck, none of this is happening to me, so why shouldn’t there be honesty in blogging:  Moody Mondays and Tedious Tuesdays and Whining Wednesdays and PaTHetic Thursdays and Fuck-Me Fridays and Stagnant Saturdays and Sucking Sundays?

OK PASS on Whining Wednesdays, I hate whining.  We’ll make it “Weeping” Wednesdays.  But (whining) It’s October so why aren’t I manic?  Or at least optimistic?  I used to have such faith.  I used to have such confidence in God, that He would take care of me through everything.  And then came the doldrums, the sameness, the consistent supply no matter whether I worked hard or not, of less-than-I-need.  Less than I need to pay bills, less than I need to fix things or replace them, but just barely enough to get by and still live in this neighborhood.

And then my wife started getting less into our relationship and more into whatever she’s doing which makes her practically pass out exhausted before I’m ready for sleep.  I swear if the doctors hadn’t already given her a clean bill of health I’d think something was wrong.  The passing out thing means nothing to me.  And I mean “nothing.”  As in, nothing happening.  As in, if I touch her, I’m bothering her and not enabling her to get enough rest.  Which again presents the looming spectre of less-than-I-need.  And not what I asked for.

And then life didn’t change, for years, and I’ve been saying I’m sometimes feeling depressed because life isn’t getting any better.  I’ve been saying I get more depressed because things suck.  As if that’s not depressing enough, my daughter has learned how to push my buttons the same way Mrs. M does, only with even less respect.  Unless she wants/needs something, in which case she’s all sweetness and delight, to which I’m supposed to just shift and return sweetness and delight.  I’ve all but shut out my whole family now.  Two down, one to go.  Sadly, I still love them all and will still try to give them what I can.  And my daughter is right, to a degree that my wife is also right, that I could expend the energy to try harder to be positive, to try harder at life, for the benefit of people around me, because hanging out with me is depressing.  Trust me, I have to live with myself.

And then at church the Bible Studies I “got to” attend were on 1) how God is present and personal and cares about individuals- yeah I can see how He gives a shit, and 2) how we’re supposed to put Him first, while life swirls in the shards of what should be, bleeding, and descends in the dust of despair, decaying, and 3) how I’m supposed to control my fucking tongue.  Yeah, mum, I know you’re right.  But why bother, especially right now?  I’d feel dishonest somehow, inauthentic.  This from the Jesus who gave us Matthew 11:29.  Since God is everywhere, must be my fault.  I’ve moved away from God in response to these feelings and events.  I sure wish He would come rescue me though.

But today, I zeroed in on one core feeling.  I feel sadness, sure, but that’s almost all the time.  I feel burdened with responsibilities, sure, but that’s all the time and overtime.  I feel frustrated, but what’s a little helpless raging between friends?  I feel abandoned, but is that really a bad thing?  I mean, I don’t even want to answer the phone.  I just feel tedious today, so that’s the perfect word.  I’m bored with the sameness, but I’m afraid anything I do will just fuck it up worse than it already is.  I don’t feel anything, but then I’m not sure I want to feel something.  Will I do a blog for Weeping Wednesday, etc.?  Probably not.

It would be tedious.

What Are We Going to do About Kim Davis?

It’s a little more than a quick rant, so I apologize in advance.  And it probably means I’ll lose all six of the people who still bother to  read what I write.  It’s OK.  I still love you all, including the ones who quit before you.

I’m reading a lot of words, cast like stones, against Kim Davis, the Kentucky court clerk who wants to not marry gay couples, and I don’t know if that’s right.  Perhaps she is wrong from one person’s perspective, or from the current attitudes and laws of the land.  I do know that people are going to do what they are going to do, and it doesn’t matter what I say about it; they’re not going to change.  But I don’t think it’s right to try to manipulate a sacred text to attempt to discredit it and it’s adherants, while at the same time trying to use the same text to justify your opinion.  It’s illogical.  You’re going to do what you want, and I’m going to do what I want, right or wrong, and none of it matters if (or because) my standards are not the same as yours, and my choices are not the same as yours.  Steven Covey taught, “Seek first to understand, then be understood.”  I’m just saying, I don’t hear a lot of attempts to understand here.

Instead, I hear the same hateful name calling, “bigot,” “homophobe,” blah, blah, blah.  I hear the same taunting about her own life choices, that some are labeling as sinful and a root of her hypocrisy.  I hear the same ranting, claiming to have a better understanding than others about what the Bible says and what it doesn’t, what Jesus taught and what he didn’t.  I hear the same tired, illogical arguments, arguing “if you believe this, then you should also believe that,” implicating the entire Old Testament legal system directed at Jewish people (not Gentiles) must logically be followed by Christ followers.  What I don’t hear is any attempt to understand her position.

I don’t think we have the right to say what a person believes or doesn’t believe, or should believe, or practices or doesn’t practice, or should practice, in the free exercise of their personal religion. We can name call all we want, we can point out what we think are errors in judgement, or interpretation of texts, and I could tell the clerk how dumb it is to go against the current national law (, and it is in my opinion, dumb), or how interestingly that national law might play out in the future, but I could just as easily defend her by saying Jesus never abolished the Old Testament Laws in the New Testament, in fact he defended them and supported them as righteous.

We could talk a long time about the lady and her apparent lack of solidity on how to do a marriage right, which might be amusing I suppose. I find her stance on the topic in light of her personal history to be highly judgemental and unloving.  But that’s me, just not being very merciful, nor considering her currently held position as admirable as I maybe should. Jesus taught that what belonged to the government should be given to the government, and what belonged to God should be given to God (Matthew 22:15-22).  Does the definition of what is and isn’t sin belong to humans, or to God?

When asked what the most important commandments were, Jesus taught to love God and love our neighbor.  But what happens when our neighbor’s choices and behaviors indicate a lack of love for God?  I believe we still should love God, and our neighbor, even when we respectfully disagree with their choices and behaviors.  I don’t think Jesus implied anywhere that we should just quietly go along.  He was the man who tossed over the tables in the temple and drove the animals out (Matthew 21:12-13), and stood courageously by the woman who the religious leaders caught in sin, telling them not to stone her, but to have mercy.  What should we then do when people mock our God and deliberately flaunt their faithlessness and behaviors we consider mockery of God?  Some want to do so right at the doors of where we would worship and serve, or even inside those sacred walls.  Look from a conservative perspective.  If we love God, should these things be allowed or encouraged in the name of loving our neighbor?  Or is that a convenient excuse?

Paul, author of at least 31% of the New Testament respected by Christ followers, had a firm and very clear position about the specific issue Kim is trying to defend, from her unfortunately sandy foundations.  Paul lumped adultery and idolatry together, saying both were against the intentions of God and the design of humans implied since the beginning (Romans 1:1-27), and said it was wrong to give affirmation to those who willfully practiced things known to be against God (1:28-32). As for Old Testament regulations binding Christ followers, Paul only briefly mentioned a few carryovers, including sexual immorality, i.e. sex outside of God’s intended design (Matthew 19:4-6, that’s Jesus speaking, not me) for marriage (Acts 21:25) as things he thought were important items that should be avoided by Gentiles.

Jesus understood we humans weren’t perfect and we were going to break the Old Testament law. All he said about that was, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.(Matthew 9:13, Matthew 12:7, which by the way came straight from the Old Testament, Hosea 6)” And about adultery, which is to many, part of the very definition at the root of this issue, he said “Go and sin no more.”  If nothing is sin any more, why would he say that, and why would his earliest preaching include the instruction “repent (turn from sin) for the kingdom of heaven is at hand?”  What he said about the law is very clear in Matthew 5:17-20.  And what Jesus did was to simplify the code for Christ followers to two things, instead of 613 things.

We are fond of pointing out the hypocrisy of judgementalism we see in others, citing Matthew 7:1-5, but not so much when our own hypocrisy in our judgementalism is pointed out. “First remove the plank from your own eye, then you can help with the speck in the other person’s eye.” (7:5) We all need to look for the plank first in our own, before we try to judge the other person for their speck.

Maybe Kim’s interpretation of scripture is more morally righteous right now (relatively, a speck) than yours (relatively, a plank) or mine (relatively, a forest).  And what if it is?  Maybe we should try harder to follow the more morally righteous position. Maybe.  Or at least respect it. Sure, we’re going to break the Old Testament laws in some areas, if from nothing more than ignorance, willful disobedience, advanced scientific understanding, or an understanding of progressive revelation (Acts 10:11-15). But we’re not Jewish, are we?

Jesus wants us to be respectful to God, even loving, to God and to others (Matthew 22:36-40), and merciful to one another (Matthew 9:13), including those we disagree with. So if you’re going to hold your understanding, or misunderstanding, of biblical texts over this woman’s head without mercy, be prepared for others to hold their understanding, or misunderstanding, over your head, without mercy.

I’ve never claimed to be righteous.  I’m a sinner.  So is Kim Davis.  And so are you.  And as I fail and fall into my own sins, and you fail and fall into yours, I trust you’ll be merciful to me as you and I both work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Psalm 2:11, Philippians 2:12).  And if you are righteous, just ignore everything I just said and go on about your business, because you’re already perfect, so you don’t need any help (Matthew 9:12).  But maybe instead of tossing the first stone, you can help the rest of us out.

It’s Probably My Fault

We ran around like headless chickens yesterday, because for back-to-school they make us follow the kids’ schedule, but attend classes at 10 minute intervals.  I didn’t get a chance to ask any questions, and at the end I was breathless and my feet hurt.  Regular readers will know,  I hated my own education experience, at least for the first two weeks of a new school term.  Perceptive regular readers will know I found my brilliant education worthless with respect to life skills including but not limited to:

__a) figuring out life skills inventories and how they fit toward
__b) getting a good job, I’ll enjoy
__c) earning a decent living-standard income,
__d) knowing who to trust and what to do when my trust has been violated,
__e) how to be my own best advocate for career advancement, (wtf is a “career” any more anyway?)
__f) how to reach a positive resolution when dealing with change,
__g) time management, and
__h) motivation to get shit done.

That’s right, my masters degree level “education” ain’t worth shit because they didn’t offer these practical life-skills.  It’s probably my fault.  I should have figured out I needed these skills when I was, say, 12, and picked them up along the way.

It’s probably my fault.  I was born in a time before GPS systems and cell phones; I don’t adapt well to technological advance.  I’ve never been particularly motivated.  I’ve been altogether too trusting, especially in “Christian” circles.  I hate change, it upsets my head and my stomach.  And I haven’t got a clue what I want to be when I grow up.  Actually, I have a clue, I just don’t know how to get there from here, at my age people expect me to be Jesus incarnate to get in the doors of doing what I want.  Or an alcoholic, drug-addicted, suicidal, homeless, un-divorced guy who has a life changing experience and then decides to work his ass off to prove he really changed.  In short, that guy becomes Jesus and then they let him do what I think I want to do.  And then they viciously underpay him for his work, he gets a divorce because his wife has a fling with someone who actually earns enough money, or he has a fling in a fit of depression because his wife turns him down because she wants to motivate him to change, he turns back to the bottle, and they drum him out of the profession.

How do people make money, anyway?  Well, Deon, first they make linen-fiber “paper,” with special security features, and then they print the proper designs on it, and then they cut it.

That’s not what I meant, Deon-Brain.  But thanks.

It’s probably my fault.  I’m not Jesus.  But if I were, they’d crucify me.  They don’t teach crucifixion in schools.  They don’t teach anything about Jesus in schools.  It would terrify the kids.  The lab experiments would be torture, literally.

I survived the school tour, but don’t ask me where any of those classrooms are. And please don’t make me go back, the swarming crowds was terrifying, not to mention those tiny desks.  They call fear of crowds enochlophobia, I suspect it’s because legend has it Enoch just fucking disappeared  one day.  That would be cool to figure out how to do that.  [Enoch:  This crowd’s too big!  Buh bye! **Poof!**]  The teachers all seemed pretty nice though, so I have high hopes my kids will emerge mostly unscathed from the new term.  I’m still a little worried though:  the teachers still use a bloody cross mark on mistakes on homework and tests.

Good luck, kids!

And maybe, while you kids are busy developing those life skills, someone will have a heart and teach what you really need to know to succeed in life.  Who knows?  Maybe I’ll figure it out too.

It’d be cool to find a church that would let me, probably the person most would judge as the farthest distance away from Jesus EVER, to teach what the Bible really says.  Faithful (ha!) readers would affirm, I wouldn’t pull any punches.  I wouldn’t claim to have all the answers.  I’d call it what it is, because what’s the point of hiding the truth behind flowery language and assorted bullshit?

Maybe they’d pay me a decent, living wage.  And then we might be able to afford the expense of you kids going to college.

My Week “Off”: Personal Lessons and Reflections From Camp

Nobody asked, but I’ve been away for a week…

“…not that anyone cares.” (Sarah Goth, Big Bang Theory)

I took a week off, which means today I’ll pay extra in catch-up at work, catch up on emails, catch up on house work, and this week I’ll need to cut the grass in between rainstorms.  I have a hate-hate relationship with routine.  I hate breaking the routine, but I hate being trapped in this routine.  “Not that anyone cares…”

I have just spent the past week, from Sunday through Saturday, voluntarily sleeping outdoors in a tent, and I paid for the experience.  I’m an introvert but I was surrounded by around 200 other campers, also in tents.  My smelly, fellow campers (say that 10 times fast, I dare you to try) were considerate for the most part, keeping their distance almost everywhere except at meal time.  I went to Boy Scout camp, and I’m not even a Boy Scout.  I avoided the poison ivy and the spiders.  A few mosquitoes did make it through to have a snack, but that was minor for me.  Others seemed to have it much worse with the mosquitoes.  Bug spray was not always effective.

I feel the slow slump of the downward spiral of emotions creeping up behind me, damn it to hell, but I didn’t let on and I tried not to let it affect my week.  I focused on learning opportunities for myself.  And I did learn.  I’ve reflected on many things, including personal potential, circumstances outside of my control, inclusivity and exclusivity, friendships, encouragements, and an acute awareness of haves and have-nots .  And my mum did not send a care package while I was away at camp.  Because I’m almost 50 and I should be able to care for myself.

I spent time in the sunshine, working alongside the scouts and leaders.  My wife read that we’re almost all deficient in vitamin D, and need more sunshine.  She read that a side-effect of the deficiency is depression, so I’ve got that going for me now I guess.  The rest is, I guess, all in my screwed-up head.

I missed my family, except my scout, who wasn’t supposed to come up to me for anything but did several times.  Poor thing, he wanted his dad’s attention against the staff policy that I’m just another adult leader, not his dad, just for the week.  And I gave it, expecting to be reprimanded for breaking the rules a few times.  The reprimand only happened once, and I broke a few rules a few times.  I missed my music, so I was encouraged when one of the older scouts had his music on his phone, which is another thing- no electronics- which older scouts can be exempted from for some reason.  And his music was great, mostly, for a 17 year old guy.  I missed my bug-free, indoor-type house, my refrigerator, my alcohol. In the rain, and in the steamy humidity, I missed my comfy, dry bed.  I missed my bathroom, and my shower, but I did make use of the facilities at camp.  Yuck.  I did not miss work, or cooking, or laundry.  I missed my electronics, which, if I owned something portable enough, I, as an adult leader, could have used the whole week.  I really need a laptop.  This year, perhaps, I’ll muster the requisite funds from my CFO (here read, “wife.”  “And I Love Her,” regardless.  (I know, it was a cover he did of the Beatles song)  I love her so much I’ll even put up with any “Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives to Me.” (nice mullet, J.D.)).

I enjoyed a few extended moments of peace and solitude.  I enjoyed birds singing.  I enjoyed seeing stars without so much light pollution.   And introverted me, I enjoyed some of the camaraderie around the campfire, jokes around the dinner table, including some guy-humour involving puns and jokes about air-shows and references to John Denver’s ill-fated experimental aircraft.  It should still be too soon to joke about it, but in the moment, it was funny.  Sorry, Denver fans.  I like John Denver too, and I know more of his songs than you’d think.  I enjoyed starting in on a few books I brought along to read. I finally learned how to make my tent zipper work with a minimum of difficulty.  On prior trips my zipper kept getting stuck on an elastic outer guard.  In the hot weather I hated walking and carrying my backpack and my gear.  Sometimes “Sunshine On My Shoulder” isn’t a good thing.  In the cooler weather that followed the rain, it wasn’t so bad.

My Potential:  I am being stifled by a lack of motivation, which really sucks because now that I’m back I realize that I do have potential, but I already feel the creeping vines of lack of motivation growing around me.  I’m being stifled by a lack of personal time.  Ironically, I had a lot of time and motivation on camp-out but no electronics to work on what I need to finish.  I am being stifled by a lack of personal funds, but we’re crawling out of that shit-hole, slowly but surely.  I hope we don’t slip.  Backsliding into shit is no fun.  There were shades of “Shawshank Redemption,” there, in my flashback.  But speaking of shit, the restrooms, outside of the campsite itself, were fully functional and not latrines, thank God.  While they did in fact smell like shit, it was not an overly dramatic shitty smell like a latrine normally has.  My lack of motivation comes from not knowing what my potential is, and also from trying and failing or trying and being pushed back into the shit by someone in control.  The motivation issues, the hell-is-other-people, my misgivings about my own personal potential, these are the stuck zippers on the tent of my life.  I need to figure out how this works, and soon.  Other people make the process look so easy.

My tent is one of those little one-person numbers.  Without any gear, there might be room for two short people who don’t move about while sleeping.  The tent ceiling felt about 3 and a half feet off the ground, maybe 4 feet, tops. I may be speaking in hyperbole, but you get the idea.  It was cramped, even though it was six feet by four feet on the ground.  I wasn’t able to stand up in there without hunkering down, and had to sleep at an odd angle to fit my six foot two frame lying down. And after the rain, the water started to pool in the back corner of my tent.  The tent is an almost perfect metaphor for life:  The size of my tent is too small.  Like Jabez in the Bible, faddish though it was a few years ago in Christ-follower circles, I need a bigger “tent.”  The current one doesn’t let me stretch to my full potential.  In life, I’m cramped and uncomfortable.  Sometimes I really, really wish I could “Fly Away.”

Also, I need some higher ground to put my tent on, because it’s letting the rain inside and ruining what I do have because it’s getting wet.  The ground was hard too, but I had a sort of poorly cushioning “camp pad” to raise me about two inches, which was almost enough to keep my left foot out of the puddle.  Let’s call the puddles and mud a metaphor for “sin,” just so you all know how clingy those damned habits can be.  I know the right things to do sometimes, and even if I know them it doesn’t mean I’m going to choose them.  As sure as there is mud, sometimes my foot is going to stray into it.  It’s seeping right into my tent and if I’m sleeping or not paying attention…

Circumstances Outside of My Control:  Sometimes life is going to hand you rain, mud, or worse, shit. At camp I learned sometimes I have to wait until an opportune time, seize it, wash it off, and move on.  Sometimes I might get hurt, as a few of my fellow campers did this week.  I was spared anything personal other than “stiffness in my bones,” and “no beauty queens in this locality.” (Yup, Queen lyrics)  In that case, I learned to tell someone there is a problem, not to do anything drastic, and to do my best with what I have until help comes along.  In the case of a few campers, it was medical intervention, which worked out very well for them.

Inclusivity and Exclusivity:  At camp, there were many team-building exercises and demonstrations.  I’ve reinforced that it’s a bad idea to shut out anyone because of personal quirks, mine or theirs.  We all need each other.  And, because I showed up and was willing to encourage others when they failed, or hadn’t yet succeeded, and cheer on others when they did succeed, make personal sacrifices, carry a share of the weight of various projects and responsibilities, whether they were actually mine or not, I was welcomed and included, and even made a new friend or two. Hundred.  Little, introverted me.  I’ve reinforced it’s a good idea to include others, to encourage others, to work hard for myself and for my team, and my team is everybody around me.  If I encourage and demonstrate that I care, it’s a whole lot easier to make a friend by offering a friendship.  Sure, some people will take advantage of you and let you carry them, but only if you let it go that far.  It’s like we’re dancing a “Calypso” and learning together.  Nobody should be shut out and left as a wall flower.

Acute Awareness of Haves and Have-Nots:  This one woke me up.  I like to bitch and moan sometimes and have big pity-parties for myself about whatever I don’t have that I want or think I need.  But at camp I was a “have” in a lot of circumstances, and I abruptly woke up to the reality that everyone is either a have or a have-not, and on the team the haves need to help the have-nots in order for the whole team to succeed.  I offered my fellow campers whatever I had that they needed, and that was another friendship exercise.  In non-camping life, I hope I continue to carry that awareness, so I can help people to share in what I have.  And maybe the haves for my have-nots will be willing to share with me.  We can all slip into selfishness and entitlements, or we can realize others have needs that we can help meet.  My son had his dad with him, even if sometimes I was on the other side of the campground.  Other scouts weren’t so fortunate.  Maybe they needed an encouraging word, from me.  If I saw and felt they needed something I had, I volunteered.  A high-five.  An “atta-boy.”  A “you can do it!”  A cheer for their success.  A demonstration to pass on a skill, as if I were the scout’s own dad.  I’ll bet that 17 year-old scout didn’t have a single damn John Denver song on his playlist.  But that’s OK.

Now, if someone can demonstrate how to get the sunscreen out of my backpack and one of my books, that would be helpful.  Something I stuffed in there hit the spray valve and it all sprayed out on my shit  gear.  And maybe I’m asking too much, hoping too high, but if someone would buy me a laptop…

It’s almost my birthday.  “And hey, it’s good to be back home again.”