Saturday, June 30, 2012

American Sodomy


What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.  Ecc. 1:9


I am YHWH your God, who brought you out of egypt, out of the land of slavery.  You shall have no other gods before me.  Dt. 5:6 & 7


Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.  They were haughty and did destestable things before me.  Therefore I did away with them as you have seen.  Ez.16:49 & 50 


I have a question for you, and I want you to really think about it carefully.  The question is this; Should all American citizens have health care?

You will notice that I didn't ask "How," I asked a simple Yes or No question.  Should all Americans have health care?

If you answered "No," then I am really curious as to why you would think it was acceptable for people to go without health care...especially if you call yourself a "Christian."  Let's face it, everyone knows that well over 30 million Americans do not have health insurance...which in America largely results in minor forms of any healthcare, if at all, unless it is the form of medical emergencies.  I find it amazingly disturbing that this fact doesn't register shame with the average American.

If you answered "Yes," then and only then can we discuss how that should be accomplished, whether private, public or a combination.

But it seems to me that very few politicians ever even ask this question to begin with.

____________________

So I was driving out to the cabin Thursday morning.  The big discussion on the radio was on how the Supreme Court was going to rule on the whole so-called Obamacare plan.  By the time I was driving home, the news was that Justice Roberts had made history by ruling it all Constitutional.  By yesterday morning, for some it would appear that the world had ended.

I had friends saying that Roberts had been paid off for his vote.  I've heard more comments on Socialism than I can remember, and I really don't care if I ever hear that term again.  One friend said that his "Liberty" had been taken away.  Another one said that if this healthcare plan is enacted, he was moving to Canada. (Yeah, no irony in that.)

All of this is a result of a hyper-partisan political system that simply can't stand the thought of things being anything other than black & white.  No nuance, no grays...everything must be black & white.  If Obama does anything at all, it must be bad...because it is Obama.  I saw the same thing under Bush.  If it's from a Republican, to the Democrats, it's evil.  If it from a Democrat, to the Republicans, it's evil.  "There is nothing new under the sun."


I have to confess that this entire situation had me laughing hysterically all day.  I know American history fairly well.  I have seen us go through situations like this over & over again, each time assuming that we had hit a wall and that we were now doomed for destruction.

But here is the greatest, and by far the most amusing, irony of it all; Obama's evil socialist plan to take over healthcare was originally a Republican plan that had the backing of the Conservative Heritage Foundation.  You can do the research yourself.  It's easy enough to find.  But if you are looking for a quick synopsis of it all, click on the following link to hear it from the horses mouth.

http://thehealthcareblog.com/blog/tag/david-durenberger/

That's my former REPUBLICAN Senator from Minnesota.  He is a nationally recognized expert on healthcare reform.  He is one of the architects who designed this bill...that Mitt Romney then went on to put in place in Massachusetts, and that President Obama then passed in to Federal law.  So, a Republican plan ends up being opposed by the Republican party.  Why?  Because it's Obama!

You can stamp your feet, cross your eyes, and hold your breath until you turn blue, but you CANNOT deny that this plan ultimately was the brain child of Conservative Republicans. (It's right THERE, a Republican Senator is saying so!)  If they had gotten this plan passed back when Clinton was in office, no one would be making a stink but the "Left."  But now because Obama is in office, you hear the "Right" screaming about socialism, etc.

And the best part is, most folks, myself included, barely know what is in the bill in the first place.


In America, it is more important to win than to be right.  In America, it is more important that your side triumphs than that something good is actually accomplished.  Because this is what our gods demand, these tiny little gods of the Democrats and Republicans...and the other little god on our dollar bill.

____________________

In Genesis 19, two strangers enter the city of Sodom.  They spend the night at Lot's house.  The men of Sodom insist that Lot send the two strangers out to them so that they could rape them.  This is where we get the conventional definition of the word "Sodomy" from.  Generally speaking, when people hear the word Sodomy, they think of two guys getting it on.

However, under regular circumstance, one does not wake up one morning and think; "Hmm, I think I would like to rape a total stranger today."  No!  This is the result of a very long decline in the mind of a person.  And it did not start with sex.  If you want to find biblical verses that prohibit same sex behavior, rape, etc, then there are plenty of other verses that work much better.  Do not use this one, because you have it wrong and are taking these passages out of context.


Much, much later, Israel is exiled to Babylon.  YHWH sends Ezekiel the prophet to them to explain why this happened.  YHWH says to the people of Israel; Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.  They were haughty and did destestable things before me.  Therefore I did away with them as you have seen.  Ez.16:49 & 50  


Let me spell this out for you incase you are confused, angry, irritated, etc. up to this point:  YHWH, the God of the BIBLE, is saying that the sin he is about to describe, which is apparently worthy of burning a city to the ground, is the SIN that SODOM committed.  In other words, he is explaining what "Sodomy" actually is!  Agreed?  OK.  I mean, this IS the God of the Bible talking here, so his word should actually mean something to "Christians," and this IS him talking...

SO...the definition of "Sodomy" is NOT about sexual perversion. (Again, plenty of other verses deal with that.) God's view of Sodomy = is they did not help the poor and needy. 

Which sounds an awful lot like "they did not care about the most vulnerable in their society, country, nation." (What ever your political persuasion might be, You might want to think that "IF" you are a "Christian," your God just might give a HUGE damn about your poorest and most vulnerable.)

If you have a better interpretation of those verses 
I would really like to hear what it is.


You can argue all you want, but you cannot change those biblical verses.

People moan about the sexual immorality of America.  There certainly is plenty....and it's been like that since humans first organized.  There really is very little new about it.  "There is nothing new under the sun. "

But a society does not reach the level of Sodom...or modern America, where sex seems to saturate everything, until you first begin to reduce a human, made in the image of God, to a "Thing."  You get there by not caring, specifically not caring about the least of these.

That's Sodomy, folks.  America is very guilty of Sodomy.


____________________


  I don't much care for politicians despite what they say.  Most of them are creepy.  But then again, most Americans are easily lead...like most folks everywhere I suppose.

I don't like Democrats very much.  They throw money after money after more money on social welfare programs that are mostly a band aid.  I believe in a strong and generous social safety net, but Democrats seem to be loath to put any type of accountability in to them.  That's why so many people think they are simply entitled to them.  Apparently they deserve it because they breathe.  You would think that the DEMs would have pulled their heads out by now.

That having been said, at least the Democrats appear to care about the poor, even if their methods are sloppy & wasteful.  Plus, I give them credit for not running around pretending that their party is Jesus' favorite.

Republicans?  Well, in the last four years with the rise of the TEA Party cult (Apparently a death-cult at that, if you recall the CNN debate and people applauding over folks with no health care dying, and others cheering for executions in Texas.) and others who espouse an Ayn Rand Social Darwinist approach to life, that party has really gone off the deep end.  So much so that, like I pointed out, they even oppose their own health care reforms.

And now there is this...

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/05/08/us-usa-budget-cuts-idUSBRE84604820120508

And

http://www.npr.org/2012/05/10/152390960/house-to-vote-on-gop-bill-favoring-guns-over-butter

You can slice & dice it any way you want to.  In fact, you can even say, as many Republicans I have heard say, that you are actually helping the poor by cutting off food stamps and the like. (I suppose they would argue that it is keeping them from being obese.) The fact remains, you are talking plans & money that exist to help the most vulnerable, and giving it to the military.

I should point out that the U.S. already has the strongest military in the history of man, and spends more than the next six strongest countries combined.

That, my friends, is Sodomy on the highest level.

For the record, I was a life-long Republican.  I didn't vote for Obama.  However, at this point in my life I guess you could say that I am a Liberal by default.  It's the same for my sort-of theological stance.  I am an Arminian by default.  I simply do not like most of what I see in the behavior and attitudes of those who call themselves Calvinists.  Far too many of them act like arrogant jerks and trash the people who don't have the same head knowledge.  The same would go for what now passes for the Republicans party.  I simply do not like them as people, much less their ideas.  They act like jerks because the other side doesn't have Jesus endorsing their political platform.  All which puts me in an awkward spot, because I certainly do not agree with everything the other side is doing.  Maybe I am just choosing the lesser of two evils...and both are pretty ugly.

I guess that I simply do not comprehend how so many people who call themselves "Christians" could ever in good conscience even stand for a second the idea that so much aid should be cut off to the poor.  Reforming is one thing.  I demand that!  But when was the last time anyone, from any side, actually propose meaningful reform? (Hint, hint, 1996 Welfare to Work program...essentially 16 years ago.) No, no reform...just cuts.

Sodomy.


____________________

So the President got his Republican healthcare plan "Okayed" by the Supreme Court.  Many folks are pissed off at Chief Justice Roberts, because to them it is obvious that he doesn't know the Constitution. (I guess he would disagree.) Our "God-given rights" are being taken away as Americans.  The Federal government will now require people with no insurance to buy it from private companies. (And private companies are all about socialism, you know.)

Here's a thought; on judgment day, the odds are that Jesus will not look us in the eyes and say, "Well done, my good and faithfully interpreting the Constitution servant."  I don't think Jesus cares all that much about the Constitution, the Magna Carta, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, or any other man-made document.  I doubt he has a strong opinion of gun rights or the Reserved Powers clause one way or the other.

No, I get the idea that he will take the Constitution and blow his nose in it.  He will then throw it in the lake of fire along with all other man-made documents.  Then he will turn around and state that "Whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did to me."


What are you going to say to that?


You can give me every argument you want.  You can talk about the Constitution this and the Constitution that.  You can give me every political & economic theory you want.  I don't care.  It doesn't mean anything to me.  In fact, such arguments have grown to actually offend me, because I see you as putting man-made ideas ahead of Christ's concerns.  I care if what ever it is you espouse looks at least a little bit like Jesus...and I know that this is difficult.

I have heard it said many times by folks that "It isn't the government's job to help the poor."  Other than that being a lie from the pit of hell, and that you just had Satan speaking through you, I would like to point out that Jesus holds EVERYONE and EVERYTHING accountable.  In his own time, Jesus pronounced judgment on the cites of Galilee that he had preached in.  In Ezekiel, the prophet has visions of entire nation states and people groups being lined up together in their own areas awaiting judgment.

Who is responsible for helping the poor?  You and I...and our towns, cities, States, nations AND our governments.

If you reject that truth, then wear your new name tag with pride.  You are a Sodomite!  You should rejoice in that.  You don't have to like it, but you cannot deny it.



I will readily acknowledge that there is no such thing as a perfect plan or theory.  I doubt very much that this new health care law will be the end all & be all of plans.  Humans are flawed and far from perfect.  But I do like the idea that, generally speaking, most of my own citizens will now get some basic coverage.  I think that is something that Jesus would affirm.  It would be hard to argue otherwise.

I saw one of my favorite heretics, Greg Boyd, tweet yesterday that he could understand people disliking the government taking more money from us.  However, he couldn't understand why anyone would get upset about the government using it to help people in the way that this plan does.  I can't understand it either.  It may sound presumptuous, but I really don't think Jesus could understand it either.

The problem is that ultimately, ultimately, we as Americans simply do not care.  We pay lip service to it, but we don't really mean it.  Americans like their Sodomy too much.  You don't have to like that, but deep in your heart you know it's true.

And on that day when we all stand before Jesus and he says "Whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did to me," what are we going to say in response?


It's just a thought.



Peace

Joe

Saturday, June 23, 2012

A Post of no Substance: Just a concert review.



So yesterday I had a bit of a surprise in store for me...and a rather pleasant one at that.  A friend of mine at work had won two tickets for a concert that night, but was unable to attend due to her shameless addiction to quilting.  So that morning she messages me that she can't go and would I mind taking her place and her son along to the show so that she could make another bed spread.

Twist my arm a little more, please!

So at 6pm I picked up her son, Charlie, and off we went while Julie, his mom, spent the evening fondling balls of yarn & twine.

It should be stated for the record that a night out for a show must included the requisite stop at Fat Lorenzo's by Lake Nokomis for pizza.  Anything less would be a grave sin. (Best part is you get left-overs that make your car smell most awesome afterwards.)

The show was of the up & coming band, Foster the People.  The opener for the show was Kimbra, who I am mildly familiar with, and then Tokyo Police Club...who I was clueless about.
http://www.fosterthepeople.com/us/home


I don't get to see shows very often anymore.  The price of most tickets are obscene, to say the least.  Then you tack on the charges of the legal mafia known as Ticket Master, and it's like going to the proctologist in January...and he's just been out making snowballs.  So, free tickets is a godsend.

____________________

My friend who scored the tickets, has a 16 year old son named Charlie.  Charlie seems to be some kind of wunderkind, who plays 5 different instruments, was on the local High School swimming team while still in Junior High, plays in a bunch of bands...and still maintains a very good GPA.  All of this achieved under a truly incredible mop of hair. (I'm working on a cartoon character based on him.)

I don't think he gets to downtown Minneapolis very much, so it was fun to watch his reactions.  It was a beautiful evening with perfect weather.  There was also a Twins game, and it was the opening weekend of the big Pride festival.  So there certainly was plenty to view.  Aside from the usual assortment of folks out on the town eating on sidewalk restaurants, there were also panhandlers, lots of cops...and scores of way-to-pretty young men who appeared greased up like a Christmas Turkeys. (No offense, but you aren't doing your side any favor if you act like a stereotype.  Save the formal thong for a less public location.)

Like any city, Minneapolis & St. Paul have their unsavory and potentially dangerous parts.  This area of downtown really isn't one of them.  There is enough of a saturation of oddballs that they tend to dilute themselves.  Plus, even though in my heart I am nothing more than a cowardly teddy bear, people tell me that I look like a bouncer.  So, I never really worry much.

____________________


My initial observation of the crowd at the Target Center was interesting to me.  It really made me realize how old I am getting.  I think the last time I went to a major concert was of Neil Young (My hero), and that included numerous folks older than me, bikers, hippies...and oddly enough lawyer & banker types who were clearly on something during the show.

Seriously, I have NEVER understood the concept of getting stoned at a concert.  Why in the world would shell out that kind of money for a ticket, and then get such a brain melt that you can't remember a thing?  Put the CD on at home, sit on your couch, get high and ruin your brain cells in private.  I really do not wish to see you act an idiot in public!

Thankfully, I didn't see any of that stupidity at the show.  In fact, I didn't see anyone smoking at all...which is a little odd.  Still it was nice to not have to put up with that.  It was also nice to see so many parents bonding with their kids.  I think it is very cool to see a mom dancing with her daughter over music that they both clearly enjoy. (My mind's eye guesses that normally it would be a parent suffering under the squeals of tween girls at a Justin Bieber concert.) Mostly though, the crowd appeared to be late High School and 20-somethings in either Preppy or Hipster attire.

BTW: Listen kids and wanna-be Hipsters, if you haven't gotten a tattoo just yet don't bother!  That fad has just about crested. About 5 years from now, it will pretty much be over and those who decided to scar that nasty stuff all over themselves will be taking out student loans to get them removed.  "I'm sorry Mz. Jensen.  You have all of the qualifications for this management position, but the customers keep mistaking you for a  hooker."  Remember, you can always cut your mullet off.

____________________


N-E-Way, on to the show...


First up with Kimbra.  http://www.kimbramusic.com/frontpage  You might be a bit familiar with her thanks to Gotye's song "Somebody that I used to know." (A bit overplayed, but enjoyable none the less.) Kimbra sings on it with the memorable lines "Now and then I think of all the times you screwed me over," which we can all probably relate to in some form.  She is a 22 year old Kiwi, out of New Zealand.

I thought that she was cute, funny in a purposely forced "Barbi" kind of way, and was extremely nice & polite.  She also had some interesting beats.  I'll let you decide for yourself.



What I hadn't realized about Kimbra is that just a while back, she had collaborated with Mark Foster of Foster the People to make this next song.  Once FTP were playing their set, they had Kimbra and her band come back on and they all played it together.  Very cool.



Yes, that is Mark Foster, Kimbra & DJ A-Trk all giving tubby a good beating at the end of the video.



Next up was a band out of Toronto...Canada at least, Tokyo Police Club.  I had never heard of these guys before.  At first, I thought the lead singer's voice was rather flat.  OK, it was flat.  Still, as they went on I found myself enjoying more and more the sounds they were making.  The guitarist and keyboard players really made some cool noises.  Guess I'll have to dig a little deeper in these Mooseheads.




Last but not least, Foster the People.  It was barely a year ago, in March, when they played at the 7th St. Entry (Attached to First Avenue) which is really small.  By May they were back at the Fine Line cafe.  Now, they are headlining at the Target Center.  Not bad.

I think what I appreciate about the band as a whole is that even though they have achieved quite a bit of success in what would appear from the outside to be a short amount of time, AND that they all look like they walked out of an Abercrombie & Fitch ad, they never come off as stuck up or preening. (Which is really saying something for most musicians.) In fact, Mark Foster, who apparently does all of the talking, came off as very humble and appreciative.

Better still was their performance.  This is one tight band!  They only really have enough songs to do about an hour, but they worked it!  Also, I have to say that you kinda get used to the visual spectacles that most shows have now, but these guys really had some interesting affects that complimented their songs.  The icing on the cake was that they had a marching band horn section come out on stage for the final song, Houdini, while another marching ensemble worked it's way into the crowd on the dance floor.  That was a surprisingly beautiful touch.

I always like it when a band uses a live performance to shake up what you would normally expect from the CD version.  These guys worked it in spades.

And now for a bit of their humor with a cameo appearance by Gabourey Sidibe



I gotta say, this really was one of the best shows that I have seen & heard in years.  Good job, boys.



See, nothing of any particularly deep spiritual substance this time around.  Just some fun.  Hey, I like to share.  Hope the rest of your weekend is great.

Peace

Joe

P.S. Oh, and for those of you heading downtown for the Pride thing, remember what I said about the thongs.  :)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

"Our Fathers..."


Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.  For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.  In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ.
Eph. 1:3-5


"This, then, is how you should pray: Our Father in heaven, holy is your name." Matt. 6:9


Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father." So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir. Gal. 4:6 & 7

"The central revelation of Jesus Christ in the New Testament is that God is Abba, Daddy."
Brennan Manning


Two days ago was Father's Day.  My family celebrated with my Dad's favorite dish, meat loaf.  I scored a good one by purchasing an awesome pair of Van's for my Dad.  Even well into his 70s, my Dad can still look hip & groovy with some pumped-up kicks.

Maybe it is the curse of being a male child, but there is always this nagging sensation in the back of my mind that I have not lived up to my father's expectations, and/or that I am somewhat of a disappointment.  Even though I know that such a feeling is completely bogus in my case, I still have those feelings from time to time.  I would guess that this is fairly common.

At the same time, I know for a fact that my Dad has lived vicariously through me at various times.  Thankfully not like some of those nut-bag dads out there who scream at their boys to run faster, hit the ball harder, etc...and then go beat up the umpire.  I would guess that living vicariously through their offspring is fairly common for fathers, too.

____________________


Many people often wonder why the God of the bible chose a male pronoun for himself.  I mean, being a spirit, it's not like he actually has male body parts.  Although, in his incarnate form as Jesus, he is both male and Jewish. (Oy!) But why did he pick that?  Why can't we say "Our mother, who is in heaven?"

I remember back at Bethel College, there were some pseudo-feminists who got all hot & bothered over this issue.  Personally, I found their protestations kinda funny.  Perhaps that makes me a bad and insensitive person.  Oh well.  For most folks, I doubt it is ever much of an issue.  However, more and more I am starting to think that it should be.

____________________

I'm adopted.  It's never been an issue for me.  Actually, it does kind of bug me...in a mildly amusing way, when people ask me questions along the lines of "So, do you know who your real parents are?"  I always use that as a teachable moment and correct them.  I will say that the folks who raised me are my real parents.  Who ever it was that got my birth mother pregnant, and obviously the women who birthed me, are not my parents.  They are my bio-parents and donors, but they were not and are not my "Real" parents.  There is a lot more to being a parent than simply getting someone pregnant and giving birth.

Like I said, it's never been an issue for me.  I guess I must have found out that I was adopted around age 7.  I had a friend at my school who was also adopted.  When we discovered this, we both thought it was most awesome!  We actually thought that this made us better than everyone else. (No joke.) We understood that we had been chosen and hand-picked.

Not to be cruel, but look what your parent's got.


Also, on a side note, when I was four I came into the house to see a man sitting in the living room with my parents.  They all informed me that they were planning on getting me a baby sister.  Upon hearing this I went out to his car and proceeded to look in the windows to see where her package was.  I didn't see any signs of a sister in the back seat, so I went back in the house to observe that she must be in the trunk and shouldn't she be let out because it was going to get hot in there.

____________________


I have worked with, and have seen, the results of people who never should have been parents.  More often than not, there is no dad in the picture.  If he is around, he is usually a male-stereotype.  The best he can depart to his own son is the hyper-masculine crap that insures that his son will grow up to be as dumb as he is, but can beat up other guys, knock women around, get gals pregnant and then demonstrate the ability to disappear like magic.

A parent is someone who gives their all to a child.  They wipe their runny noses and poopy bottoms.  They teach them right from wrong.  They love them unconditionally and demonstrate this love with proper discipline.  As you can see, biology plays a minor role in being a parent.  As such, a parent can be a grandfather, an uncle, even a neighbor...and certainly someone who adopts you.  In my case, I couldn't have asked for better parents, nor could I have asked for a better Dad, specifically.

To quote our oft-maligned President, Barack Obama; "Any fool can get a woman pregnant.  But it takes a real man to raise a child."


____________________


Brennan Manning is a liar and a drunk.  While he is still alive, he has slowly been killing himself with alcohol.  He has had a problem with the bottle and truth for a long time.  He also openly and readily admits these problems.  I trust him because of his admissions, where as I do NOT trust others who call themselves "Christians" who show no battle scars.  Manning knows what it is like to suffer for Grace.  As a result, Brennan Manning has an understanding of Grace that few in this age ever will.  In fact, Manning is routinely trashed because of his failings and his emphasis on Grace by those who can't seem to handle the fact that Manning is correct about how much the God of the bible loves us. (Surely, there has got to be some secret method to earning Grace, damn it!)

Manning has also written some of the finest and most difficult books I have ever read.  They are difficult not because the concepts are hard to understand, but because they are so easy.  It is difficult not to find your own broken & sinful self on every page, and to have hidden pains, secrets, guilts and shames exposed.  For Believers The Ragamuffin Gospel will most likely go down as one of the most important works of the last 100 years. (If you haven't read it, you really should.)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ragamuffin_Gospel

I cannot watch the following video with out starting to bawl my eyes out every time.  So be it.  Give it a gander.




"The central revelation of Jesus Christ in the New Testament is that God is Abba, Daddy." (And thats where I start bawling.)

____________________

Why did the God of the bible pick a male pronoun for himself?  Why is the incarnation of God a man?  Why, if Manning is correct, why is the central revelation of this incarnate God known as Jesus that we can now call this God "Daddy?"

Look around you and I think you will know why.

YHWH is no fool.  The bible is a narrative of God's pursuit for, and love of, humanity.  It is replete with patriarchs, kings and lesser men who were all sinners.  They were liars, adulterers, murders, thieves...and fathers.

YHWH chose to be the "Man" that he knew "Men" could never be.  Jesus showed what it was like to live in a perfect relationship with the "Father" and how much the Father loves his children.  He is the father that we could never have, even for those of us with incredible dads.  He is the father many never have at all.  He is the father who loves perfectly and endlessly.  He is the father who gives of himself tirelessly and unselfishly.

He knew that finite men could never be the "Men" that our children require.  So he is the model for all to follow.


Admittedly, his ways are not our ways...which I am very thankful for.  Nor is his love like our love.  Just as my earthly father did things for my benefit that I did not understand at the time, so to with this father.

This father is strong, when our fathers are weak.  This father is gracious and long-suffering when our fathers are petty.  This father never tires, even when our fathers grow old and perish.  This father is holy, set apart, greater than anything we could imagine.

____________________


I love my Dad.  I love the time that we spend fishing.  We discuss many things when we are together.  We pick each other's brains.  I am always impressed that my Dad is so curious, and I enjoy watching my Dad learn new things.  Old dogs can always learn new tricks.  We talk about politics, world issues, the weather...Scripture.  I love it.

I believe in the the physicality of the New Heaven & Earth.  I am not a Platonic Gnostic who thinks we will waste our time as mere spirit beings floating about clouds while we play harps. (If that's the case, I really don't want to go.) No, I believe in the visions of the prophet Ezekiel.  In the New Heaven & Earth.  There will be FISHING! (Ez. 47) My Dad & I shall continue our conversations, and probably let Jesus get a word in every once in a while while we fish.

I love my Dad and am most thankful for him and that I was adopted by him and my Mom.


However, I am more thankful for my "Abba,"...who is in heaven.  I am thankful for my adoption into his home.  I am now his son.  I am an heir to all that Christ has done and is.

He does not see me as I often do.  He was well aware of all my imperfections, failures, lackings and sin long before I was.  Because of the gift of himself, I am no longer a disappointment, but am holy & blameless in his sight because his spirit lives in me...and in his eyes, I look just like him.


This father is strong, when our fathers are weak.  This father is gracious and long-suffering when our fathers are petty.  This father never tires, even when our fathers grow old and perish.  This father is holy, set apart, greater than anything we could imagine, hope for, desire...or deserve.

I have NO idea why he puts up with me, but...

HE is my Daddy!

And when I grow up, I want to be just like him. 



Peace

Joe




Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Re-Make/Re-Model


I tried, but I could not find a way.
Looking back, all I did was look away.
Next time is the best time we all know.
But if there is no next time, where to go?


I could talk, talk, talk, talk myself to death.
But I believe I would only waste my breath.
Roxy Music


Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in light of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God --- this is your spiritual act of worship.  Do not conform and longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Romans 12:1 & 2


Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.  Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me.
Psalm 51: 10-12


So I made it all the way out to my families' cabin and realized that I had left my tortilla chips back home on the counter.  Curses!  Vexed am I above all men.

Thankfully Annandale was close by and had a grocery store.

What is it about being out in nature, by a lake, on the water, what have you, that causes me to chill out so?  Is it that God is simply a better architect than Man?  We can build some very cool structures, but forest seems to put that to shame.  Most readers may have noticed by now that I love all types of music, but it's hard to beat hearing a Loon call.

So here I am for a few days.  The internet is slow, but so is the pace.

____________________


Say what you will about the Patriarch Jacob.  He was no hero or roll-model.  However, he did have one semi-redeeming characteristic that served him well.  He was no quitter.  From the moment he was born he was in some type of conflict...pretty much all of them bad AND his doing.  But he never quit.

The only reason I say that it was semi-redeeming was the fateful night that YHWH assaults him in the dark and they wrestle until sunrise.  God tells Jacob to let him go because the sun was coming up.  Jacob refuses saying "Not until you bless me."

God asks Jacob, "What is your name?"  Which is odd because God generally knows the average person's name.

But Jacob has to say his own name out loud, and his name means Cheater, Deceiver, Heel-Grabber.  Not exactly a compliment.  Jacob has to say out loud to God exactly who & what he was.

And it is at Jacob's admission that God changes his name to Israel, which means "You have struggled with God and with men and have prevailed."

Jacob never quit.

Jacob got a new name, a new limp and a new understanding.


____________________


I am trying to unwind from the past few months of stress.  I have come to the cabin to read, write, think and fish.  I have also come to try and reprioritize my life.  I am a creature of habit.  Many of my habits are bad.  Most of them are very selfish.

My habits and rituals generally give me immediate satisfaction.  Most of them can make me very comfortable.  I could probably keep up most of them the rest of my life and be quite "satisfied."  I doubt any of them would make me feel particularly fulfilled.


I know more than a few people who have much more than I do in the "Creature Comforts" department.  I know many people who will always have the various material pleasures that I will never have access to.  I really do not care too much about that sort of thing.  So that isn't much of an issue for me.

But that doesn't mean that I am satisfied.

I want more than that.
More than this.

In Philippians, Paul is writing from a jail cell.  Considering his circumstances, it is probably the most upbeat, happy letter you could read.  But in it he expresses an optimistic dissatisfaction.

In the third chapter he uses the line, "I want to be found in him." (I.e. Jesus)

Then he writes; "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead." (3:10 & 11)

That's some strange stuff coming from a guy who knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was saved and would spend eternity with Jesus.  But I think Paul may have been on to something there.  Something deeper than head-knowledge and cognitive understanding of the truth of Christ.  I think he was hungry.

I think Paul was hungry in the same way that Moses was hungry to see YHWH's face in the tent of meeting.  Paul was hungry in the same way that Jacob was hungry, and clung to God during that wrestling match, refusing to let go even after God had popped his hip out of joint.  Paul was dissatisfied in the best possible way.  He wanted to know God on a level that is too deep for words that could be repeated in a speech or put on a page.

I want that.

____________________

The problem is that I do not really mean that last line I wrote.  I wish I did, but if I have to be truthful and name my own name, admitting who I really am, like Jacob did, then the only truth I can muster at this point is that I am simply not ready.

Remember those selfish habits I mentioned?  
Yeah, they are still there.
That willfulness.

I still want to be God.


So here I am at the cabin trying to name them.  Trying to sort through them.  Trying to sort through me.  And in writing any of this I have to admit to my own arrogance, because "I" am the one trying to do all the work.  Honestly, I will ask God every day to remove certain temptations, thoughts, habits, etc. from me, and then to insert knew ones, but I really think that maybe it is I who refuses to trust him.

I dunno.  As you can see, I am still trying to process a large load.

____________________

Over the next day or so, I guess all I really want to do is two things.  In my readily admitted fleshy weakness, I would just like to shut up and listen.

The second thing I would like to do is work up a list, sort of a daily to-do list with specific times for them.  Example: Awaken at 6:30AM = 15 minutes prayer/meditation, 6:45AM = read a Psalm, etc.

I am a creature of habit, so this could be a very good thing if I could fall into step with something like this.  However, I would wager that I'm not the only one reading this that would notice how easily this could become a "Religious" formula.  I could pat myself on the back for being a good boy, while Jesus stays over on the shelf.

I have no answer for this.  
I'm just kind of sitting here staring blankly as I type.



Father, please, remake me.  Remodel me.  
Create in me a clean heart.  Give me a willing spirit to sustain me
...and help me to shut up and just listen, 
because I really could talk, talk, talk, talk myself to death.




Peace

Joe

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Emotional Rescue


I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
Phil. 4:11-13


I wish I could say that the above quote is from me, and that I had that sort of understanding.  Unfortunately, I cannot and do not.

_____________________


Have you ever been driving really, really fast in a car when suddenly you hit the brakes?  You know that sensation of your whole body and being just feeling completely out of sorts?  Well, that would be me.  Hence, the picture with the fried bacon.  I feel a bit like a bacon strip...and one that has been cooked a little too long, at that.



This was an interesting week for me.  My career as a public school teacher is over.  I'm not sure what is next for me.  I do wish to take a stab at making some money as a writer of some sort.  Who knows?  God always seems to have an odd sense of humor when it comes to me, so we'll see.

I had been offered a full-time position with the school, but long story short, I turned it down.  I'm glad that I came to that decision on my own before I found out that the school was going to close anyway.  I will genuinely miss the people that I worked with.  A couple in particular.  I will also miss many of the students.

However, I am glad to be done with that school.  I saw so much ugliness that it really did a number on my head.  To be honest, everything in me suffered.  My health is downhill now, so is my emotional and spiritual life.  It is just extremely difficult for me to stare into the face of so much self-destructive lifestyles and behaviors that it feels like I am being poisoned.


On a side note, my lack of respect for so-called "Community Leaders" has reached epic proportions.  I am not convinced at all that these men actually give a damn about their community.  They certainly like the power & influence that they get, but other than that...  I won't name names on the odd chance that this might come back to haunt me.  However, it strikes me that if you are a member of the State Legislature representing this area, you might wish to encourage your family members to not engage in prostitution as an occupation.  Also, if you want to be a "Leader," start with your own family.  If your daughter tries to set our school on fire, it's generally a sign that you have failed as a parent.

____________________


So after I had left the school for the final time, I got together with a friend of mine who is a psychiatric nurse for the military. (His last name also happens to be the same as the delicious product pictured at the top) I asked him if I could have PTSD or something like that.  I mean, waking to nightmare about the school is generally a less-than positive occurrence.  I explained to him about how I was feeling, and all of the weird crap in my head, so on & so forth.

He laughed and said "No" to the PTSD thing.  But then he told me that what I needed was to learn "Emotional Regulation."  Something clicked in me when he said that, so I pressed him on it.  I think he is right.  There are somethings that I get way to emotional over, and I doubt it's very healthy.


The funny thing is that I am not easily offended by stuff.  I spend more time with non-Believers than I do with Believers, so I tend to be the one doing the offending when I am with those "Christian" types. (In many respects, it's a true gift on my part.) I am just used to hearing & seeing some outrageous stuff, and it just doesn't get me worked up.  Don't get me wrong, I don't endorse the majority of it.  I just don't get all out of joint.

I joked to a couple of friends that if I was out on a date with a gal, and she revealed that at one point she had actually been a man, I wouldn't freak out.  However, the requisite kiss good night would probably be withheld.

Stuff like that just doesn't get to me like it does to others.


All of that having been said, there are some buttons that you can press that can cause me to pop a bolt.  The easiest one is to treat me as "Less Than," or to essentially dismiss me.  My normal reaction is to loudly & sarcastically rip you a new one.  I've gotten better at regulating that one.  However, if I see someone treating others in that manner, I kind of can't help myself. (I have been told that it is kind of fun to watch.)

The thing is, I'm not totally sure what buttons were pressed at that school.  What ever they were, most of them seemed to have all been pushed at the same time...and held down for an extended period.

I know that I have a hard time watching people rejoice in their wanton ignorance, and encourage others to do the same.  I also know that I really and truly hate stereotypes, and those who encourage others to fulfill them.  I also despise wasted potential.  I saw plenty of all of the above at that school.


I dunno, I have plenty to process.



The thing is, I feel very far from God.  I feel rather empty.  I think about the life of Jacob.  His is a story that I have been thinking about and mediating of for almost a year now.  He only had a couple of those spectacular encounters with YHWH that we all crave.  Yet, God was with him the whole time.  I hope that is the case with me.

I guess that I can't blame God for any of this.  The fact is that I did not make the daily time to seek him. Regardless, I feel very far from him.  I can't say that I like this feeling very much.

____________________

I enjoy the philosopher from Northern Ireland named Peter Rollins.  He has some interesting thoughts on these empty feelings that Believers get more often than we would care to admit.



I read his book "Insurrection: To Believe is Human, to Doubt, Divine," this past Autumn.  Plenty of it was way over my head.  Still, he had some fascinating observations.  One of them struck me to the core, and gave me great comfort.

"It is easy for us to take the experience of God's absence as a rejection of God's presence and either celebrate it or bemoan, depending upon one's position.  But a properly Christological reflection should lead us to see the felt experience of God's absence as the fundamental way of entering into the presence of God.  For if being a Christian involves participating in the Crucifixion, then it means undergoing this  earth-shattering loss.  While various religious systems provide a place for this painful experience of unknowing, in Christianity when one is crushed by a deep, existential loss of certainty, one finds oneself in Christ."

In other words, to lose is to find.

Which oddly enough does sound rather similar to something another clever fellow once said; "Whoever
finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." Matt. 10:39


So, yes, I do take comfort in the idea that this feeling of distance and absence is actually a sign of something more going on.  It certainly makes me hungry for Jesus.

____________________

My week of vacation began today.  Considering that I have been burning the candle at both ends and the middle for almost 3 months now, it feels incredibly odd to have so much free time.  I wish to take this time to do a major restructuring of my life and habits.  There is so much more that I could be doing with my life...particularly if I want to take a stab at writing some kind of book.

Most importantly, I really want to take this time to let Jesus actually heal me.  I especially want him to help me figure out this whole emotional regulation thing.  I want him to clean me inside and out.  I do not believe that he wastes anything.  We do.  He doesn't.  Whatever the reasons were for me to have to endure so much stress & ugliness for so long, he will make it known to me and cause it to work for the good of me and his glory.

Here's the rub.  I have come to the point in my life where I believe fully, and with all my heart, that he will provide for me with whatever is coming next.  I am convinced of that.  However, I have not yet come to the point in my life where I do not sweat bullets and worry about what it might be.  I guess that's just another issue that he has to chisel away at me over.

Such is life.  




Naturally, I could think of no more appropriate a song to end this post with than this one.  :)



Peace

Joe