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

Why Is This Night Different?

Saturday I went to a special service at a church I don’t regularly attend, honoring the in-laws and their family tradition of having a blessing said over their Easter meal.  A deacon spoke a message about family, traditions and why traditions are observed.  He said that their religion is a religion of traditions, passed down from generation to generation and shared among family and friends and welcomed guests.  He then spoke a blessing on our families, our homes, and our food that we will share on Sunday.

I’m a proud protestant, and this means that I favor breaking tradition when it becomes religion done for religion’s sake, a litigious liturgy of lawful legalism, the letter of the law that loses the spirit of the law.  That said, there is nothing wrong with tradition, when tradition honors family and honors God.  And includes others in the celebration, allowing them to see for themselves and learn.  Life as a family is supposed to be a celebration (and yes, sometimes celebration includes alcohol.  It’s kind of my little joke, inasmuch as alcohol helps to relieve tension, because trust me, family is frequently tension.)

Back to honoring family and honoring God and including others in the celebration:  At its’ heart, the law of Moses does each of these.  Consider the first 4 commandments:  Honor God.  Love God.  Worship God.  Consider the fifth:  Honor your mother and father.  Love mom and dad. (I think it’s loving to wish that if your mum or dad are jerks that they would learn to be more loving, or at least leave you the hell alone, if you’re a kid with an abusive dad or mum they are probably ignoring six through ten.)  And, consider the sixth through the tenth- fully half of the commandments center around how to treat other people.  Or I should say, how not to treat other people, these commands say not to do bad things:  Lying, cheating, stealing, killing…all the things that caused country music.  (It’s a joke, ok? I LIKE country music.)

I have a high respect for tradition when it points people toward love of family and God and others.  And as a Christ follower I’m well aware that our Christian traditions have their roots in Jewish tradition.  Catholic and Christian traditions have both adopted something called Communion, which is rooted in the Jewish Seder, or Passover meal.

During the traditional Passover Seder the youngest child capable is given a scripted list of four questions to ask.  It’s tradition, educating everyone who attends and including even the youngest children with the capacity to understand the answers to the questions.  And the father answers the questions so everyone understands the history of the Hebrew people and how God intervened on their behalf when they were slaves in Egypt.

Exodus 13: 14 “In days to come, when your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ say to him, ‘With a mighty hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.'”

The ritual Seder meal is considered sacred, and guests who do not believe did not traditionally partake:

Exodus 12:43 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “These are the regulations for the Passover meal:

“No foreigner may eat it. 44 Any slave you have bought may eat it after you have circumcised him, 45 but a temporary resident or a hired worker may not eat it.

Similarly, in the Christian tradition, the Communion ritual is considered sacred, and guests who do not  believe and people with sin still celebrated in their hearts can watch, but are cautioned against partaking:

At the church in Corinth, they got it wrong, just amongst the believers themselves, so Paul set them straight in his letter to them.  See I Corinthians 11.   Did you read it?  It’s more than a little bit frightening.  People only think God in the New Testament is all love and no correction toward our behaviour.  Not so.  But He’s patient with us, since we’re just invited guests and not practicing Jewish people.  God really is the same God in the Old Testament and the New, but I think He forgives ignorance more than false piety.

Jesus’ first sermon was that people should “repent.”  If there’s no such thing as sin, and no such thing as any eventual punishment for sin, why would he bother to tell people to turn from their sins (toward him).

There are several elements of the traditional Seder meal that point toward Jesus, from the blood on the doorposts in the shape of a cross to the lamb that was cooked in haste for the meal, to the cups of wine and the traditional handling of the bread.  The unleavened bread is divided into three (representing God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.).  A third is hidden (Jesus in the tomb) and the children search for it, and everyone celebrates when one finds it.

If you clicked the link, you’ll understand.  The text from Luke 15 shows me that whoever finds the truth, a lost one who is found, whether an invited guest or one who should actually be a member of the family already, is celebrated.

Jesus was heralded as “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”  We celebrate his victory today.  Jewish families will celebrate the Passover in April, we Christ followers are a little early this year.  At Jesus’ crucifixion, it was the time of the Passover.

The letter of the law is rigid, impartial and a bit heartless.  It’s the truth, without love.  It excludes people, not just from partaking of the feast, but from attending as well.  And, it leaves you either hungry or sore. (Did you notice Exodus 12:44?  Ouch!)  The spirit of the law in the Old Testament was intended to make Israel stand out, special, different.  It was to protect them, too.  And, with the tradition, or law, of the Seder meal, it was to point them to Jesus.  The spirit of the law gives life.

Why is this night different?  Why is Easter special?  Because Jesus sets us free from sin and eternal death.

So here’s my open invitation to join me in my now explained tradition (that doesn’t necessarily require one to make a painful sacrifice):  “Look!  The Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world!

“He is not here.  He has risen.”

Happy Easter!

What a Crucifix Means to Me

Rome killed
Thousands
On crosses
Some  still
Can legally
Crucify their “criminals” in the modern day,
Believe it or not, just as barbaric as Rome was.
But why was the crucifixion of Jesus so special?
Well, all the
Others who
Were killed
In this way
Remained
Dead. But
Jesus was
One very
Different
Victim of
The cross.
We fill our
Graves up
And they
Stay full,

But Jesus
Only rented
His grave for
Three Days.

Rain Rein Reign…

“Yeah so STFU, Deon.  You are a world class fucking idiot,” is what the voices in my head said today.  They proceeded to parade in front of my mind’s eye, imagination, thoughts, whatever the fuck you want to call it, all the people I know who are having a harder time than I.  I pray.  Really hard.  For myself and for other people.  And I fully, heartily agree that other people do have it harder than me.  There’s flooding.  There’s blizzards in Springtime.  There’s emotional turmoil.  There’s financial needs.  There’s politics.  And sometimes, these issues other people suffer seem to hold hands and dance in a blinding circle around the people I pray for, to thoroughly fuck things up for them in ways I can only imagine in my dark nightmares.

So my voices in my head remind me that others do suffer more than I.  And I fully accept it.  I pray for other people.  I pray for myself.  The prayers for me seem to go to the ceiling and then rain shit on my head.  The others go out the window and I haven’t got a clue where they go.  Perhaps they go where the good prayers go and angels are dispatched with answers.  Perhaps they go past the ceiling to el cielo (translated as the sky, or, depending on context, heaven.)

Tangent:  I learned when I was a kid there are three heavens.  John and Paul got sneak previews of the “Third Heaven,” the place where God lives. First is the sky, the atmosphere, as Deuteronomy 28:12 describes rain from heaven.  Second is outer space as Deuteronomy 4:19 describes heaven as the place where the sun and moon and stars are. And third is heaven as God’s dwelling place, different from the other two heavenly realms, as Deuteronomy 26:15 teaches.  Look that up, the Hebrews equivocated by name, calling them all “heaven,” in Deuteronomy, but enumerated them to distinguish, as any logical Jewish person would have until Paul’s and John’s day.

I wish I always got an answer when I prayed, but I don’t.  I know a lot, I’ve learned a lot, but there is still much to know.  Which means I don’t know the heart of Jesus, because if I knew I’d understand why he doesn’t answer sometimes.  I especially wish I could know how to pray in a way God would answer, because there are circumstances that break my heart, that other people have to endure, which must surely break the heart of Jesus.  I mentioned in a previous blog entry that a big part of being a Christ follower was having your heart broken by the things that break the heart of Jesus.  I only wish that more often than, and more completely than, I am able to intervene in some tiny way, I were able to intervene and amend the things that I felt needed amending.  I want to fix it, but something is yanking the reins of my capabilities, I can’t do anything, or I can’t do much, to help.

I hate you theologians, although I suspect you may be at least a little bit right, when you teach that I’d be taking away something either from someone else who’s supposed to intervene, or from whoever is enduring who is supposed to learn from whatever circumstances they go through, if I could just fix it.  I hate it.  I want people to not suffer.  I don’t want to suffer either.  Suffering sucks.  I read I’m supposed to “be joyful in suffering.”  (see verse 2 there?)  But I’m not.  I’m joyful when I can do something to help someone else in suffering.  Suffering sucks.  I will say it again.

Yesterday I had the radio on and a guy was talking about how Matthew (chapter 26) sandwiched the sweet story of the lady who poured out perfumed oil onto Jesus’ feet (verses 6-13), between the moldy bread of the chief priest’s plot (verses 3-5), and the moldy bread of Judas Iscariot (verses 14-16).  I cried.

I’m the whole sandwich.  In my heart of hearts I want to be the best Christ follower and give Jesus something worthwhile. I want to pour out the sweet perfumed oil from my priceless, shattered jar, as a blessing, onto Jesus’ feet.  I want to let Him reign as the king of my soul and my life. Then I realize, I am the failure, the chief priest and the elder who should know how to guide other people but I can’t even figure out a direction for myself.  I am a blind guide, maybe worse than the chief priest was.  And then I realize, I am also Judas, chosen by Jesus himself to be a follower and I fail him personally all the time.  I’m the worthless, bitter disciple who wants what he can get for himself.  I’m handing Jesus over for the world to crucify afresh, because of my failings- I hear the mockers:  “If you follow Jesus and act like that, well then Jesus must not be all that.  What good is Jesus’ gift of salvation if it leaves you like that?”

I’m certain that I’m here for a reason.  My delight is in encouraging other people. I love it when I can say something supportive or funny, or whatever, that helps someone who’s going through a hard time.  I don’t suffer a bully at all, for the same reason I hate suffering.  Bullies can eat my fist, or eat my shit, their preference, and die, for all I care.  Suffering is a bully.  I just want people to know I pray for them, especially when they’re going through hell, and if I can help I will dive right in and do what I can.  But there are things I can’t do anything about, that’s when I pray.

Rodney Atkins does a song about it, maybe you’ll comiserate and maybe you’ll take encouragement from it.  I’m sure the song was built around an old Irish blessing, something like this one: “May you get to Heaven a half hour before the Devil knows you’re dead.” ~Irish Proverb

I’m the whole sandwich. I want to bring a blessing to you, but I can’t figure out how to get out of my own shit-uation. Maybe we’re just supposed to hug each other, and then lock arms and walk together through this Earthly hell, pulling each other along through everything. Maybe we’re supposed to tell each other to keep on going, keep on trying. To help each other see the light at the end of the tunnel, when we’re blinded by our situations. It’s not a freight train. Sometimes it seems like that must be true, but it’s a lie. There’s hope. But the devil is a very convincing liar, isn’t he?

We have to be here for each other. I’m here because I was put here for a reason. That reason is for me to be humbled and helpful, and where I can’t be directly helpful, to be prayerful. That’ll have to be my shattered alabaster jar. It’s all I’ve got. And I’m already broken.

Here, take my hand.  We can walk together.

OK, now I’m shutting up.

~DM

Façades? No, This is the Real Me

Follow the twists and convolutions of this article to the end and win a prize!! (I’m kidding, there is no prize at the bottom of this cereal box.  Or is there?)

Yeah I wasn’t pretending when I said I hate everybody equally. Well, almost equally.  Some I hate a little more equally than others, and some I hate a little less equally.  But what I really hate is when I see a friend suffering, in emotional or physical pain, or in need, and I’m basically helpless.  I don’t carry cash, I don’t have credit cards, I don’t go out to eat unless Mrs. M. armtwists or it’s a very special occasion.  Like our anniversary, we have to go out (I guess).  Or if we’re travelling, the opportunity for home-cooking is limited.  I have a limited scope of intervention, but I try when I can, to do something good for other people.

“I have called you ‘friends.'”   Savvy readers, or those who can follow the link at the left, will know it’s part of a quote from John 15:15.  I don’t get to call anyone “servant.”  And on the right side of the blog here, if I read your blogs, I have called you friends.  Maybe I hate you a little less than your average person, take it as a compliment.  I’m trying to follow Jesus’ example because I’m a Christ-follower.  But If you’ve read my blog you know I do it a little differently than most Christ-followers.  I’m the real thing.  And I’ve been given a special gift.

The gift is this blog nobody reads.  Well, nobody I know who knows me face to face knows I write it, because I hide in the safety of my bunker and write boldly, the thoughts I really think, the emotions I really feel, with minimal filters.  Or, occasionally, no filters.  I have a minimal online presence, I think.  No fakebook, no Tumblr, no Pinterest, no LinkedIn, no social networking other than this blog and a twitter thingy.  The cool kids have moved on even from fakebook, so there’s no danger of discovery there.

Here on this blog I get to do something I don’t really get to do in real life.  (Shh!  Don’t tell any of my offline friends!)  I speak in a tongue unknown to most Christ followers:  I speak a special language called “Profanity.”  What I mean is, I fucking SWEAR!  It’s quite possibly a sin, I mean,

Ephesians 4: 29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

Oooh, “unwholesome.”  It might be considered “unwholesome,” by other Christ followers.  Because they’ve decided swearing is a sin.  I don’t get to decide that, and it’s unclear to me.  Maybe it’s just communicating clearly.  Maybe swearing is a sin.  Maybe it depends on my heart in the moment.  Or, maybe it might be, as I prefer to think of it, a gift.

Acts 2: When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. 11 we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”

If it’s a “tongue,” it’s certainly “seasoned with salt.”  Take that, nay-sayers.  I speak it because here on this blog I don’t really give a shit what people think of me personally, I’m inconsequential.  I’m here to share life.  If life is fucked up, that’s what I’m going to say about it.  I think it’s more gritty, maybe a lot more honest, to say something is fucked up and I’m praying about it, than to just say I’m praying about it.  If life is displaying the wonders of God, I’m going to talk about that.

Christ followers speak their minds in a lot of ways, bless their hearts.  But it’s just my humble opinion that many of my fellow followers are more pious and easily offended than they should be.  Some of my best friends, who wouldn’t read this blog, would be offended if they did.  Even my mum would probably be put off.  She doesn’t like it when I swear, so I don’t when I’m around her, or my wife, or the kids.

For the blog, I blame Tony Campolo, but read even further if you dare.  In 2011 he said this:

“I have three things I’d like to say today. First, while you were sleeping last night, 45,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don’t give a shit. What’s worse is that you’re more upset with the fact that I said shit than the fact that 45,000 kids died last night.” I found the quote online, and then I found a video about the quote.

Watch, he’s all apologetic about it to all the tenderhearted Christ-followers:

I also blame Jesus for my salty approach.  Look at Matthew 15:

Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!”

Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God,’ they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:

“‘These people honor me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
    their teachings are merely human rules.’”

10 Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand.11 What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”

12 Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?”

13 He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. 14 Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”

15 Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.”

16 “Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. 17 “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”

Jesus (in addition to saying basically, “are you fucking IDIOTS?”(verse 16) which really cracks me up) says this:

God doesn’t really give a shit what a person eats, except as done to truly honor God, even if they don’t wash their hands before they eat.  Jesus says food goes in and shit comes out (paraphrased), and none of that defiles a person.  Jesus says the shitty things that are lurking in your heart, that come out of your mouth, make you unclean (paraphrased).  There were pious Jews back then who really did try to honor God by what they ate and didn’t eat, by what they said and didn’t say, what they did and didn’t do.  Just as today, there are Christ followers who want to honor God by what they do and don’t to, say and don’t say.  And some Jewish people were so high-minded they figured out “lawful” ways to get by with things they didn’t really want to do that they should have been doing.  Just as today, some Christ-followers choose to either ignore or sidestep things we don’t want to get involved in.  “I can only do so much, isn’t it already enough?”

The truth is, there was hypocrisy then, there’s hypocrisy now, and most of it is in the church because if you’re not in the church you already probably don’t give a fuck about what God says, now, do you?

I don’t know about the accuracy of Campolo’s statistic.  If he’s right, or even exaggerating a little, Christ followers, and indeed the world, needs to band together and change that. But he’s right about Christianity. It’s about being heartbroken “by the things that break the heart of Jesus.”

I think it breaks Jesus’ heart that Christ followers can’t communicate with the world, and tell them God fucking LOVES them, and wants them to turn away from their sins and follow Jesus the best way they can.  I think it breaks Jesus’ heart when Christ-followers justify not specifically praying for specific needs of people who don’t believe in Jesus (I’ve heard that shit and I strongly object to fucking hate that STINGY, lazy, or fear-filled heart-set).  I’ve even heard people who claim to follow Christ who won’t help people who aren’t Christ followers because they aren’t Christ followers.  I think it breaks Jesus’ heart when we don’t want to help other people unless they’re already “one of us.”  I think it breaks Jesus’ heart when we don’t concern ourselves with the care of widows and orphans in distress.

I don’t give a shit, personally, whether you agree with me or not about Jesus.  Don’t care.  But John, who knew Jesus, wrote about him saying the verse you all probably read on posters at football games:  “God loved the world so much He gave His one and only Son, so that whoever believes in Him can be saved.” (John 3:16, paraphrased).  Paul wrote in Romans that “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart the God raised Him (Jesus) from the dead, you shall be saved.”(Romans 10:9-10)  And Peter, who also knew Jesus, wrote that “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (II Peter 3:9)  A lot of complicated words meaning no one should end up in eternal separation from God, but faith in Jesus answers the whole sin problem and connects people to a much more pleasant eternity after death, and Jesus is waiting.  Possibly, for you.

Easter is coming, if you need clarification on anything I’ve written please feel free to comment.  If you don’t want to hear it, please don’t muddy the comments with your dissent, I get it, fuck me, that’s fine.  I told everyone going into my blog that there are tons of blogs out there FAR better than mine, so if you don’t like it, I still care in Jesus’ name, but in my own name, fuck off and read someone else.  But if you’re the least bit curious why I keep saying these things, I recommend finding a church that is teaching about why we celebrate Easter as Christ-followers, and going there Sunday to just listen.  I bet you 400 million dollars whoever speaks won’t swear, unless he’s been influenced by Tony.

I’m praying for, and intervening where possible, on behalf of people in need, because we should.  I’m trying to really follow Jesus’ example of honest truth and honest love.  And, my two-faced Christ-following dissenters will love this one:  Just because I love you in the name of, and on behalf of, Jesus, doesn’t mean I even like you in my own name.  But I confess, I’ve learned to care about some people through my own life’s experiences, and many of you might actually read my blog, so I have one last important thing to say.

It’s a double-edged sword, I caution you.  There is love, and there is truth, but they really can’t be separated.  With the truth comes understanding that God is still holy, which means God wants nothing to do with what He calls sin, we have to do our best to turn away from it and toward Him.  It’s not up to me to decide what sin is for you, but I learned from the Bible and from real life, none of us, especially me, are perfect.  So I leave it up to you to ask God whatever your sin is that He doesn’t like.  He gave us a conscience so we could figure it out, plus, if you’re really looking for truth, Jesus taught, “seek and you will find.”  Nobody’s perfect, but we can do better. With love, OK, even I can learn to care about other people, and believe me it’s not easy.

OK, it’s time, you’ll have to decide for yourselves if there was a prize at the bottom.

The most important thing I can say today is this: Please, understand, God loves you SO FUCKING MUCH that I can’t do justice trying to explain it.  You have to find out for yourself.  And the second most important thing I can say is, do something nice for someone else, no matter how small it is, it counts.  It won’t save you, but it counts.

Alone

Loneliness isn’t too bad.  I have time to do whatever I want, whenever I want.  Or time to do nothing.  I’ve built things.  I’ve designed.  I’ve written.  I’ve thought the deep thoughts.  I’ve felt the feelings.

My purple skies are different than your blue ones.  And your black nights different from my grey ones.  You haven’t seen me yet, but I’ve seen you.

When I found your planet, I checked your history, and scanned your media transmissions.  Your planet, for all if its’ inhabitants, is a really scary place.  I was curious before I started, and might have come by for a visit, but I don’t ever want to come now.

You don’t like each other.  And if you don’t like each other, you’ll certainly not like me.  You have a long history on the planet of disliking things and people that are different from you.  You’re selfish.  You’re hateful.  You’re cruel. Things that shouldn’t matter make you into these evil, spitting-mad beings from your own hell.

I don’t understand.  You want only what you can take, using legal means, or persuasive means.  You then want whatever else you can take, by intimidation or force.  And you seem to enjoy this kind of existence, playing life like it’s a game.  Sometimes you even celebrate your evils by putting them on your mass media, such as television and radio news, or your internet.  But you’re all the same creatures, stuck on the same rock out in space, with no where else to go given your current technologies.  Why won’t you all just help each other?  Why won’t you share?

I know a lot.  I could help, but I’ve seen where that would go.  The old powerful are replaced by the newly powerful, and they’re just as bad as the old, or worse.  I’ve also seen when once One came to help and I know what you did to Him.

No thank you.

I’ll just stay here, alone.

What’s The Right Way To Say This?

I’m listening, friends.  I may sound like the worlds biggest pagan most of the time, but I’m listening. You can send anything you want my way and I’ll offer the world’s most honest opinion.  One of my friends sent me something to review and I’m about to give it.

The email came from one of my more evangelical friends, who passed on the email as she had received it from one of her friends.  And while the content is fine and the message is fine, the context of the friend’s email put me off.

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“…many years ago by a black pastor.  Just found it on You Tube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ffzB_HK9sNU …”
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What’s the right way to say this?

I looked it up.  His name was Doctor Shadrach Meshach Lockridge.  He was an enthusiastic speaker, and if his pastoral skills were a match to his preaching, if this small snippet is representative, believe it or not, even I might sign up.  He was not just “a black pastor.”  He was an educated man of letters with a speaking skill not often matched, if the churches I’ve been to are representative.  Some people stumble over their notes, say things that aren’t in there as if they are, fake their enthusiasm or their drama, put on a big show every weekend and then go back to their humdrums, or maybe they seem boring to you.  Sorry, boring pastors.  If it doesn’t seem alive and believable, I’m not going to come back for a second helping.

Well meaning people.  I’m not really offended at the intent.  I’m trying not to be offended at the content.  The intent was to introduce me to a way of looking at the Jesus of the New Testament, as promised in the Old Testament.  The content was off-putting somehow.  If she had just said “by a great pastor,” or “by a great speaker,” or “by the famous Dr. Lockridge,” I would have had no difficulty with the message.  But, “…by a black pastor.”  I don’t know the right way to say this.  I wish I did.  It’s simple enough to suggest that the introduction was, to me, dismissive, a little disrespectful.  I would like to use stronger words to describe how unflattering the description was, but I don’t know the right way to say this.  The problem is, the video and its’ description were very probably sent intending to be positive and not intending any offense.

But.

He was a doctor.  With not just one doctorate.  He was an author.  He preached around the world, and in his pastorate it was said that he reached over 100,000 people.  Look at him.  I’m no preacher.  I’m more like Pontius Pilate introducing Jesus in John 19:15:  “Behold the man.”  Do what you want with him.  Easter is coming, so I have to apologize.  I have my mind on that a bit.

People have all kinds of reasons to be dismissive of other people.  They don’t look the same (skin color, really, this is the 21st century!), they don’t act the same (as nice), they don’t sound the same (as educated), they don’t look the same (as wealthy), they don’t think the same (as philosophically programmed).  But to be dismissive is to behave as though someone else is less important, less valuable than you are, and that is not right.   If you think you’re superior, your inferiority has blinded you.  If you think you’re inferior, you’re lying to yourself.

How would the Jesus of the Bible have introduced Dr. Lockridge?  In spite of my own personal feelings about Jesus and his opinions of me, I think he would have said, “This is my friend, Dr. Lockridge.  Give him your full attention.”

I have long lamented the passing of various people. They come onto the planet, they make a significant contribution of incalculable value to our culture, and then they leave, and I never get to meet these people.  Others don’t have the opportunity and after fighting to make their contributions, lose the battle and never get their ideas out.  Some become famous.  Others do not.  Some live out their days and no one notices them.

I try to make it a habit to notice people, and to genuinely care about people. I confess I don’t always succeed.  But there’s a guy at work who cleans, and that’s his full-time job.  I know his name.  If you have a guy, do you know his name, or if you have a woman, do you know hers?  Does he smile the obligatory smile when you say hello, if you bother, or does he engage you in conversation?  The guy teaches me.  He’s an example.  And his position is so small, I wonder if no one else notices him.  But he’s quiet, and patient, and beautiful.  And great.  I’m so happy I noticed.  I’m so happy I had the chance to meet him.  I think sometimes the cleaning lady or the homeless man would have something valuable to say, if we would listen.

The homeless man should teach survival skills and philosophy.  They’ve mastered the art of scraping an existence out of nothing.  The cleaning person should dispense their wisdom as well, about a life of endurance and the rewards of repetitive tasks done well.  These people may not have the book-smarts to earn a degree, but they have gathered wisdom.  And we should not be dismissive of them, or of each other.

I confess, I’ve done it myself, and fractured what should have been a good friendship, in the past.  I was tired, I wanted to move along and get done what I wanted to get done, and the person I kind of dismissed was going on and on and on in his excitement about what he was doing, where he was living, he had just gotten married, a lot to digest.  I SHOULD have invited him to lunch to catch up.  Instead I kind of said I needed to get back to my tasks, in a kind of abrupt way.  Ugh.  I’m sorry.  And I had to go to the bathroom.  He was miffed, and never spoke to me again.  If you’re reading this, not that you ever would, I’m sorry.  I moved to another state and have no way of reaching this person, but I know what I did.  Maybe he’s forgiven me by now, or forgotten me or written me off or whatever.  Fine.  I don’t always set the best example.  I was rude.  I have learned from it, for what it’s worth.

I’ve also been dismissed.  Ever been overlooked for that promotion you deserved at work?  I have.  Ever been overlooked in spite of your credentials or abilities, and another person took the spot you thought you deserved?  Or took the spotlight for something you did?  I have.  Ever been lied to about something important, only later to think back and remember how much that actually hurt you, emotionally, financially, professionally?  I have.  It’s disrespectful  It’s the other person telling you that you are beneath them, they can do what they want and you are just a pawn or another stepping stone on the path to their personal greatness.  You were only put on the planet for them to take advantage of you.  It’s like being mugged, except it’s done in plain sight and it’s not “criminal.”  It’s just “wrong.”

Doctor Lockridge, and a host of other great people, I will never have the chance to meet. But I’ll just offer this as my own wisdom:  Don’t be dismissive.  Tell the truth.  Be polite.  Be nice to everyone, from your bosses bosses boss, to the homeless guy who asks for a dollar to buy cigarettes or a bottle of whiskey.  You may not really like a person. You may not really like their behavior choices, things they may do.  You may not like how they look.  It doesn’t matter.  Be nice.  In a digital world, things are fast, things are said thoughtlessly.  I’m not going to take offense at the friend who shared, or really of her friend either.  No offense was intended.  The message was sent with positive intentions, so I’m not going to act like I have a chip on my shoulder.  That’s a set up for more thoughtlessness.

I’m just going to say that while I may not have the same perspective of Jesus that Doctor Lockridge had, I respect what he said and what he did.  After all, James said, “Don’t just listen to the Word, and deceive yourself (into thinking you’re fine). Do what it says.” (James 1:22).    Doctor Lockridge put his words into actions, at least that’s what I’m reading from his biography.  And that is very respectable.

Hey, friends!  (And enemies, if I have anyone who thinks of themselves that way)  I received a wonderfully presented message about the character and nature of the Jesus of the Bible.  The man speaking is the late Doctor Lockridge, who was a famous preacher.  Click on his name above to give it a listen.  It’s worthwhile.  It doesn’t sound like a “performance piece” to me.  It sounds like Doctor Lockridge is a friend of Jesus.  It sounds like Jesus is very real to him.

After you listen, if you like it, you can hear more of the same at a nearby local church.  And if they don’t preach how you like, find another church and give that a try.  We are all created equal, but we’re not all given the same abilities.  Doctor Lockridge was a gifted speaker.  I’m sure you can find a gifted speaker near you.  Give them your full attention, even if it’s the homeless gentleman or lady on the street, or the person who cleans your office bathrooms.  It will encourage them to be acknowledged, even if it’s a local pastor.  And it might even encourage you too.

I did it!  No swears.  Maybe Doctor Lockridge has made me want to do better about that.