Heroic Misery

We exhault the ending. We don’t like the heroic misery that led to the ending. It would be awesome if we could just have the penultimate moment at the peak of victory all the time. One decapitated dragon bleeding out behind one handsome, sword wielding guy. On the guy’s other arm is a damsel no longer in distress. It’s time for the hero to return home and the dragon’s family to start plotting revenge.

Foolish Imaginings Sans Heroic Misery

We want foolish fantasies as our utopia. To be forever no older than 25, virule, surrounded by docile, willing women who fulfill our every desire, women who are Mary Magdalene in the bedroom and Mother Mary everywhere else. There will be only ecstasy, forever in the exultant moment of victory as the dragon’s head fell to the ground and his blood began searing the grassland. Never mind about the dragon. He needed killing.

We want a complete end to death and disease. No one would ever die, get sick or injured. We would all always be twenty-something invincible. All the foolish things we attempt at that age would never fail. The Earth would be Eden and free of all the signals of first world manufacturing. Our land unsullied by large scale farming that uses chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Everyone would have their forty acres and an ox. Ox? Yes. An Ox will plough a field. A mule? Not like an ox. Think I am kidding? Ask any Amish farmer whether he’d rather pull a plough with an ox or a mule. Thought so.

No hangovers, no escalating negative consequences from our success at achieving all seven deadly sins. No responsibility for our depravity and all the benefits. It is a toddler’s perfect world.

A Toddler’s Pastoral Paradise

One world government, dedicated to the pleasure of the peeeepul, fighting the rich and protecting us from the insults of the world. No one would hear anything that might be perceived as even slightly aggressive or a potential cause for a trigger. We could pee on the coloring books and eat the crayons and suffer no ill-effects. Our innovative way of expressing our opposition to the oppression perpetrated against us by those who would have us color inside the lines engenders praise.

Akim got into a 100 comment long thread with a few women. At the root of it was Akim’s assertion that pussy should be available on-demand. If a guy wants it women should provide. No, women would not have a say. Guy wants ass, guy gets ass. He built up an elaborate fictional world in which gestation had been offloaded to robots and women were sterilized at birth. Akim framed this as a wise goal of a future Socialist Party government. Free pussy would be a right. Free will for women would be at the whim of men.

Which is . . . stupid. Women shut down insanity like this since forever. Guys don’t have a growing child in their belly and all the resulting misery. Guys initiate gestation with sex. We get a taste of ecstasy and the woman gets a lifelong commitment to a child. Abortion? The memory of that unborn fetus never leaves the woman. Women care about sex because of the consequences to them when it works as intended and pregnancy results.

Teen Male Fantasy and Porn Trope

Akim hungered for his “should be” and refused to acknowledge some inconvenient facts. He sought solace in long-winded fantasies of a better world run by local, communal governing boards. It was a rather Maoist ideology mixed with fantasy about San Francisco’s Summer of Love.

The signals of hope & change? perf. Actual change? Can’t even. There is a political point to this. Trump voters want change. We want the chaos unleashed by attacking the career civil service, sacred cows like Medicaid, Obamacare, TANF and Social Security. A century of bigger federal budgets, greater corruption and increasingly, a government that exists only for itself is enough. We know that every coup d’é·tat means chaos and sometimes, civil war. The struggle is real, tbh.

 wait-a-minute

Now, I need to interrupt myself. I started this full of vim & verve sure that I had an epiphany worth 1500 words. I thought my political point would make it to the end of this piece. It won’t. Why? A word from God.

It was around 3am. I did my nightly wake, pee, flush, back to bed. And . . . God picks this moment to remind me that I still carry resentment from a single kickball game when I was eight. I’ve not been to the gym in three weeks. I have tons of good reasons why. They are all bullshit. This, a bitter root from my youth, this is what God showed me. Shit. Busted.

Epic Fail Heroic Misery

Old Wounds

So, a confession. I am averse to misery of any sort. Yeah, big woop. Not exactly news, that. I have used my heritage and position to belly up to the buffet of pleasures possible in my place and day. Asceticism? Oh the horror. Never.

One more thing to confess: I was teased just enough in grade school when trying to play kickball that I made an oath that I would *never* be caught playing sports. There is a medical reason for this. I have a hand eye coordination problem. Or . . . I did. Sometimes my brain tries to get my body to do something and it doesn’t go as intended. There were enough embarrassing fails as a kid that I’d rather dissolve into shapeless meat inseparable from an easy chair than do anything that requires hand-eye coordination and sweat.

Yes, that 5 years when I did Aiki Jujitsu did happen. The things I learned in that 5 years still help me. Deep down there is still that little boy who is embarrassed and wounded because the kids laughed when I tried to kick the ball and whiffed it. The same little boy who got pranked and ran the football to the opposition’s goal line.

It Needs Killing

So, there it is, the dragon that must be slain. I have to heal that little boy within me that swore off recess and kick-ball because of a couple minutes in my youth. I can’t say I am not an athlete. My rank in Jujitsu belies that. But, as my sixth decade approaches a life-altering choice is before me. I can spend ever increasing amounts on medications and incantations and doctors in an effort to get this glutinous body healthy or I can get myself to the gym and recover my former athletic self.

The easy chair will remain. Every day the choice is there: endure some misery for an hour or so at the gym or let the easy chair eat a bit more of my health. On this last visit to the doctor my A1C score was down a full point and I had lost some weight. I’ve not been to the gym in the last two weeks. When I was going my weight was under 230. It’s over that now. You can’t ask for a more concrete proof of whether exercise works. Work out? Weight and blood sugar scores fall. Collapse in to the easy chair? Things move the other direction and I die a little bit more.

Six miserable, one joyous

None of this is news. There are 7 major phases to an archetypical hero’s tale. The sought after exultant victory is achieved only at the end, after the hero almost dies. For six out of the seven phases there is misery of one sort or another. The story is a tragedy until the very end. You can’t accomplish the penultimate victory over the dragon without going through phases 1 through 6. Training is tortuous. If it isn’t hard you are not putting in enough effort. But . . . enough platitudes. I can spit out tropes and slogans with the best of them. The measure of whether I will win the battle with diabetes is still to be told.

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Never Forget

Never Forget is not what we are told. We are to forgive and forget. That lives alongside, “Aquellos que no pueden recordar el pasado están condenados a repetirlo.” Third, to understand Christ, to grock this 2,000 year old movement of dissident Jews, you have to understand two things. The first is our history. The Bible makes no sense at all without knowing the history of it. The second is that the Way of Jesus of Nazareth is a deeply political movement. The bible is a political document. Our commissioning narrative is of three political dissidents martyred by Rome for crimes against Caesar and Judaism. To denude Christians of politics is to willfully deny the reason our movement started. The Jews wanted a revolution to overthrow Caesar. Jesus and his followers fomented a revolution within Judaism that continues today. No history and all of it is utter nonsense.

Some tails wishing to wag big dogs want to us to forget particular narratives in favor of their own. They stomp and shout in circles around memorials to the Confederate Army and insist that all symbols of the Civil War be removed from public view. History must be purified of the bloody stains left on it by White People.

So, by that premise, Richmond’s Hollywood Cemetery is a stain on the national narrative that ought to be erased. Exhume the confederate soldiers buried there burn their bones. Every gravestone ground up into gravel for concrete to build housing and factories for the peepul. Collective farms can be made on the recovered land after the cemetery is destroyed.

Once forgotten, history can be repeated. Once the memorials and monuments are gone it becomes possible to pretend that the dark days didn’t happen. We will have a pure history correct in its details. There never was a Civil War. A peepul’s paradise can exist where the bitter memory of the War for States Rights once stood. The story can be killed because the tangible symbols of it are replaced by utopian land redistribution schemes. Things will be better once the story is dead.

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New Orleans Robert E Lee statue never forget

Further, these same tails foment a zealous nationalism that justifies violence and discrimination against their enemies. White People are innately racist and evil. White People stole land from brown people. Steal the land back and give it to designated brown people based on need. Every WASP oppresses somebody simply by being alive. The country will be better after we cleanse ourselves of WASPs. So, rinse repeat the genocide and turn the world deep brown.

The City of New Orleans recently removed the statues of General Robert E Lee and others. Charlottesville is considering similar measures to remove the statues of Civil War luminaries. If we don’t have to look at the symbols of slavery then somehow that will accomplish the goals of those who still carry angst because their ancestors suffered evil at the hands of White People.

Next, I know I am repeating myself. I am not the first to say this either. Those who nourish their angst for the sins of others keep themselves in pain. There is freedom in forgiveness. There is power in compassion. This is some old blah, blah, blah. You know this. And yet we still have those who claim it isn’t over, that they are owed their pound of flesh.

Auschwitz never forget

Never Forget

We must forgive. We must also never forget. Auschwitz-Berkenau must remain standing. Here in the South I want us to build memorials and monuments to our history. Richmond’s Lumpkins Jail is a parking lot today. We should rebuild it as a memorial so we don’t forget.

There have been purges throughout history. 秦始皇 through genocide and massive destruction of extant books, attempted to have history begin with him. Though he was successful some knowledge of Chinese history predating his dynasty survived. Words and story have an immortality difficult to suppress. The monuments may be gone but the memories and stories survive.

Mao’s Cultural Revolution was an attempt to purify China. Mao sought to bleed out capitalism so that nothing remained save for the revolution. It was a decade of brutal persecution that crippled China. As I listen to the Black Lives Matter folk and other nationalist movements among brown people I can’t help but hear an ache for an American Cultural Revolution to purify us of our WASP oppressors. We can begin in the South with the monuments remembering the War for States Rights.

In Praise of the Lowly

My Jesus was a no-account carpenter born in Bethlehem and hailed from Nazareth. He was the bastard child of Joseph and Mary. Everything we tell of his life is a farce of the Holy Roman Emperor. There were many before him and many since who died at the hands of genocidal kings. Their stories are forgotten. Jesus of Nazareth is remembered. His martyrdom is a cornerstone of our Reformed faith.

If we did as many suggest, and set about removing all traces of art remembering Christ we may make some headway at erasing him from history. Christians were a dissident Jewish rebellion against the Hebrew church and Rome for over 400 years. The mightiest empire in the world at that time tried to destroy us, to wipe the memory of Christ clean. Jesus must be forgotten. He is remembered. Rome fell, the church remains.

Immortal Story

Killing words is much harder than killing people. Story outlives genocide. 秦始 failed to destroy the words so we have 道德經 from the memories of those who followed it and survived. Mao’s genocidal attempt at making a purely Communist China lasted a decade. Mao died, communism has been sullied by capitalism. Where the virulent weed of capitalism has taken seed it has exploded the wealth of those infected by it. After all that there are Jews in Germany. That went well.

Never Forget

Finally, I want us to remember. I want the ache of what was done to stay so we remember why we must continue to forgive. Lucas 6:27, “Pero a ustedes que me escuchan les digo: Amen a sus enemigos, hagan bien a quienes los odian” means nothing if we have erased the memory of why someone is an enemy to us. Instead of taking the Confederate Monuments down we ought to restore Lumpkins Jail and other sites so the whole story is remembered.

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A Fist Full of Fiscal Fears


I need to talk about money bad. I need to talk about my fist full of fiscal fears. This has been true for years: I explain how much I make and how much I spend and it doesn’t add up. A living wage for me is about $14.50/hr. It’s been that amount for at least a decade. I worked at CapitalOne for a couple years, lived in a hotel and made $14.00/hr. A big reason for pursuing a leased house was to live cheaper in a better domicile. The hotel cost me roughly $900/month. My house with all the bills costs about $150.00/month less. So, do I have that $150.00/month? I do not.

A Fist Full of Nothing

Where is it? If I had put that $150.00/month in a savings account I’d have $4500.00 in principle. Dave Ramsey talks about having $1,000.00 in cash as a reserve. After paying off your debt the next step is 3-6 months of cash reserve. Assuming it costs me $2200/month to live, I need at least $6600.00 in the bank after becoming debt free. That $150.00/month cost savings is 68% of what I need in cash reserves. I have $500.00 or so.

I haven’t answered the question, “where is it?” Where is that $4500.00? Gone. Spent. On stupid stuff. $4500.00 of FUB.

Promises, Promises

As I type this I am a month behind on my utility bill with the city, I owe almost $400.00 on my cell phone bill and I don’t have the rent money due this week. My car’s inspection sticker expired last October and I have three traffic citations accusing me of driving the Impala with the expired sticker. The car needs another couple thousand to make it right even after spending $3,000.00 on repairs. I owe $540.00 on my credit card.

What I say to everyone is that I am broke. I can’t afford to do the responsible things with my money. Doing the right thing has to wait while I put out one more fiscal fire. I keep putting this off, telling myself that I’ll take care of it once I have a job that pays enough. Just a little longer and there won’t be so many fiscal fears and fires to deal with. When things are better I’ll do the right thing. I’m on the far side of my mid-fifties. Hillel, “אם אני לא לעצמי מי הוא בשבילי? ולהיות עצמי, מה אני? ואם לא עכשיו, מתי??

I promised as 2016 came to a close, to tithe more and save more. It’s what you do when in the company of a case worker. You say the right words about doing the right thing while knowing you are lying. I am tithing less and letting the calls from collection agencies go to voice mail. My promises mean less than Catullus’ words from his avid lover.

 

The Fist Full of Fiscal Fears

One more thing. A couple months ago I maxed out my $750.00 limit on my credit card. Then I made my plans for a trip to South Carolina based on having sufficient available credit. If I didn’t pay off the credit card the South Carolina trip falls apart. So, I started paying $50.00/week and more toward my credit card balance.

The Impala needs too much work. Court dates on the Impala start next month. I need a car before returning to court. There are still bills that need catching up. It is the end of May. My employer is converting me from a temporary worker to full-time. I have fiscal nuclear bombs exploding in my life for the next couple months..

I’ll be getting paid twice a month instead of every week. I won’t see a paycheck until late in the first month. Rent, the utility bill from the city, my cell phone bill, and my light bill, all have to get paid twice in a few weeks to avoid the sort of fiscal nuclear bomb that would put me on the street. Plan for that? No. I ain’t got no plan for that.

Mo Money Mo Better?

Oprah discovered this. It is an easy slide up the economic scale. As income increases we expand our lifestyle to consume the increase. New vistas and possibilities open up as our income climbs. Some of us make polite sounding noises about the increase not changing our lifestyle. Right. Pay cash for a bucket list car? Why thank you, I think I will.

Each step up we say again that we are entitled to the shopping list made possible by the new economic level. It gets easy to forget the old roach and rat infested third floor walkup with hissing steam radiators that only seem to work in the summer. Cash for a genuine Rolex? Definitely.

Yet, when we lived in that dump and rode the bus we made ends meet. The budget balanced because it had to. Now that we have arrived and can buy a watch equivalent to over a year of wages our budget doesn’t balance. Mo Money isn’t on its own mo better.

Money won’t fix it unless you get at the underlying reason why someone can’t keep it together. I have to do the work to heal my broken relationship with money. If I stay the same then my post in December of this year will have nothing to show for my added $900.00/month.

The Challenge

Jesus tells us to take nothing with us. God provides for the sparrow. How much more will he provide for us? We live in an empire that is a top ten all time wealthiest. Our first world life affords us a base-line lifestyle most of the world envies. The challenge is to live a frugal life in this cornucopia of indulgences we bathe in.

This is my challenge also. To live a $15.00/hr. life while earning $5.00/hr. more than that. Resist the natural growth in lifestyle available because of the extra income. My history on this does not bode well.

Jesus Doesn’t Deserve This

A thousand words down and I finally come out with it. I have a huge problem with giving money to the church. I’ve held this grudge since I was a kid. You read pieces of it here. I don’t like blindly giving fish. I wish we in the west would slow down before we fly 10,000 pounds of rice over the African Savannah and push it out of the back of a C-130 because of that doe-eyed kid we’ve all seen in UNICEF TV ads. So much of what the church does with tithing bugs me. I give to the church grudgingly, when I give at all.

I am still a fan of Robert Lupton’s, “Toxic Charity” and Dambiza Moyo’s, “Dead Aid.” I want the church to be smarter about how it does missions and service. Just doing resource dumps is stupid.

But . . . countless times in my nearly three score years the church has had my back. There are many in a number of congregations who are angels to me. It wasn’t always cash. Sometimes it was strong words or prayer. Everything done for me was done without an overt demand for compensation.

I.O. Him

Name for me another organization that would provide food, shelter, mental health services, transportation, access to medical care, religious education and fellowship for free. Where else can you find a scholar deeply educated in scripture who will give of his time free of charge? Grocery store gift cards.

Is the church sinful? Yes. It is filled with people. People sin. Not all people. Enough people to make the two word premise valid. Churches are filled with messed up people who did some fucked up shit. These messed up people are there because something drove them to seek revolution in their lives by following the way of life evangelized by a no-account carpenter from Nazareth who was martyred over 2,000 years ago. 2,000 years is a long time to not screw up.

In 2,000 years, have Christians ever done anything to anger others? Have we sinned? Every damned day. So, I, along with many, who get self-righteous and point angry fingers at the church, need to check our selves. Since when did we gain the right to stipulate that we are without sin but those guys, those Jesus freaks, well . . . they are evil. It is not credible that I could justify my resentment and miserly contributions to the church because those guys don’t deserve it until they come correct.

Money Bull Sh*t

Right, so here we are. The right thing to say is, “I am sorry. I’ll start tithing more diligently.” Those words are crap. What we both know as I type this is that I still have some forgiving to do. I owe the church the recognition of what it has done for me for free in the form of a stack of Benjamins. I ought not continue to judge. My cries of poverty are bullshit. I’ll let you know how it went in December of this year.

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Even Churches Die

Horses know that old hay is no good. Why do we hoard old, moldy hay like it was more precious than gold?

Even Churches Die. One change to my writing is that Yoast SEO likes it if the “slug” the name of the blog post, appears near the start of the post. It makes the software happy. The software also has opinions on what makes my work easy to read. The software and I disagree. It wants a style of writing taught in Freshman English 1A. Yeah, so . . . sorry, no. If I comply I am promised more eyeballs, a good thing. Yes, even churches die. It’s not something that we want to think about. We want our churches to be eternal. We don’t want them to die.

They do die, though. The church dies and is reborn. This cantankerous rebellion started by a martyred carpenter from the ghetto in Nazareth follows the narrative of its founder. It dies and is reborn. If the first death were the end we would not be over 2,000 years into our dispute with Judaism. Over two millennia and we can count billions as followers of that no-account, troublemaking rebel who overturned tables in the temple and chased people with a whip. Although churches die Jesus of Nazareth continues to attract new followers. Crucifying him just made it go viral.

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This story was fact checked by the Journalistic Integrity Committee of the Peoples United Democratic Free Anarchist Republic of Berkeley and rated, “pants on fire”.

There are two services at my church. The early one is a traditional service like I grew up with. The hymnal contains nothing newer than a hundred years ago. It is Catholic Mass denuded of everything the Protestants believed was not Biblical. It is the liturgy of my youth. I have no truck with it. It’s fine.

The other service, the contemporary service, would have my Puritan ancestors declaring us apostate. There is *dancing* and singing and short skirts and boys in tight t-shirts, practically naked by 17th Century standards. At full song the service is hot and sweaty. We have amplified voices, electric guitars, electric pianos and a trap drum set. It is the furthest thing from what my ancestors considered to be pure faith.

There is a stark contrast between the earlier traditional service and the later contemporary service. I went to the 9:30 service two weeks ago. It felt like an unending dirge mourning another moldy scarecrow buried. Weddings among this clique are rare and wakes are frequent. Compare the early service to 11:00am when we raise the roof. There is life. There is noise. People pray loudly. I’ve seen friends fall out full of the spirit. There are new people showing up. New kids trailed by young parents. It is as alive as the earlier service is morbid.

We have an awesome building. Our pastor is everything we wished for when we called him. The associate pastor is awesome. We have great music, do the worship thing well. We do all the things you expect and yet our membership is declining. We are dieing. The traditional service is not gaining new members. Something has to give or we are dead.

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Northminster Baptist Church was a fixture on the Richmond religious scene for over six generations. Old in this country is anything older than a generation. Six generations is positively immortal. Northminster Baptist Church died. It is no more. What killed it? A wealthy, dedicated minority who controlled the leadership and vowed to die before they allowed necessary changes. They kept their vow. They and the church they led is no more.

Every Sunday at 10:30am at 3121 Moss Side Avenue in Richmond, VA there is raucous worship.The Northminster Campus was a sorry mid-century corpse until it was given to Atlee Community Church. Today it is reborn.  The old pipe organ was given away to another church that wanted to appease scarecrows insistent on remaining Orthodox Baptist. Where the pipes were are large flat panel televisions. The pews are gone, donated to still another church that has a majority zombie leadership. In their place are stackable chairs. There is a rock band. There is that revival feeling to the worship service. They do an altar call at every service. It’s a completely different church. It is alive. It is disruptive, seditious, temple table turning crazy for the scarecrows and zombies. I love it.

More crucial to me are the reasons Northminster died. Northminster scarecrows were old money Democrats who built a legal fortress around their church to protect themselves from intrusion by outsiders. The deeds to the houses had red-lining clauses in them preventing the sale to anyone not part of the inner circle. These wealthy Baptists were a fountain of evil against a city that is one corner of the slave triangle and was once one of the largest slave markets in the South. Underneath all that holy ghost stuff was racism of a truly ugly sort. They survived long after Kennedy was shot. For them, nothing would change until they died. Yep, that’s how it went.

Today in the room they protected from outsiders there are colored folk of every stripe learning how to get a job. Most of them are exactly the kind of undesirables that the old guard kept out. Mind you, these are the good Baptists who have done everything right, went to good schools, graduated from good colleges, had the usual upper-middle class professional careers. They ran the PTA and the boy & girl scout troops. In every respect they are the heart of the country. Except . . . their NIMBY created a deeply evil racist attitude toward their neighbors exactly against what Christ taught. I’m glad they died. It was time.

That room is filled with the sort of “go fishing together” local missions deeply resisted by the scarecrows. Missions was a two week trip to Central America to build a chapel and save souls. The rest of the year it was another check written for the special offering that week. Locals needed to get themselves to the altar and beg for a fish. They were a Feedmore.org distribution site. Missions was something done to others so they could signal their virtue. They had the ability and felt obligated to fulfill perceived needs.

St. Giles is at a crossroads. We are Northminster about a decade before it died. We have enough scarecrows in key leadership positions that making necessary changes is hard. Our scarecrows have threatened to leave us and take their money with them. We don’t know how we can pay our bills without them so the threat carries some weight and we still do things to appease them that put us in compromising places.

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We don’t know how this ends. Jesus was such a threat to the church of this day that they had him killed by the Romans. At the start we were an annoying band of dissidents who seemed to be of no-account to Caesar. Four centuries later Constantine was so desperate to win a battle he offered himself and the Empire to God if God would grant him this victory. Constantine got his victory and the Empire was never the same. Everywhere scarecrows try to hold on to last year’s dessicated hay as the only hay they will fill themselves with. Jesus is holding the gates of heaven open and burning the the old hay. Jesus has never stopped being a change agent, a maker of new hay.

I hope the scarecrows die off. We can’t survive as a church with them and we are afraid we won’t survive without them. The one certain thing is that they are old and musty and the hay that stuffs them full is moldy and decaying. They will die. We won’t have them or their estates forever. Nothing is immortal.

St. Giles is younger than Northminster by a half century. We are over 75 years old. We are old enough that our founding members are going home to Jesus at an increasing rate. The memory of why we left Grace Covenant Church and much later, why we joined the split from the Presbyterian Church of USA is so yesterday. We are not yet zombie old. We are close, though, and our scarecrows seem set on having their old ways, old hay even to the death of us.

To be Christian is to agree to let die the aspects of ourselves that are out of kilter from what Jesus taught. Death to this world is a part of life in Christ. This means that the old scarecrows, if they are to have their church, must find ways to recruit new, young members and hand over the reigns. This is never easy. Those rascally youngins want all this change and innovation and there is always tension between tradition and necessary disruption to the old order.

Time will tell. We might still be a church if we are able to let the old scarecrows die, if they will surrender to inevitable change. If not, we will join the many churches that once had a heyday and now are legend and ruins.

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Fear

I wrote a post I titled, “Anxiety“. I wanted to be done with it. I am not done with it. I am not over it. Fear touches me in two ways lately. My son, who I don’t usually write about, suffers from anxiety that causes depression for him. This is actual for him. There isn’t a “just get over it” for him. When he gets knocked by life it takes him out. Recovery is never sure and can take months. It hurts and no amount of tough love will move the ball for him. Yeah, he is a millennial, something of a snowflake. The angst is no less powerful for him.

That’s one. The other is the intense tantrum the press is having now that HRH Pimp Daddy US has left the building. Their king, their god, their bhodisatva, did the horrible thing and let Cheeto Satan move in. It’s the end of the world as we know it. A bajillion women worldwide marched and carried protest signs and sang and spoke of wanting to burn down the White House. The *White* House. Shouldn’t it be something else, maybe the 1600 House or something. I mean, seriously, “white” House. Isn’t that racist somehow? All that strom and drang and what of it? Not so much.

I have a question for all those who are trying to learn to contort themselves so that ass and lips can meet. Who is your lord and king? Who is your Daddy? You knew this would end. Pimp Daddy US said so. Is that it? Is that who you worship? A dear leader who committed a venial sin and simply walked away from being the most powerful man on earth? You are that simple, that empty, that you worship a pimp? No wonder you are a mess.

This was going to end. It has to. It’s been a century of diddling about with socialism, either more or less of it. Every election cycle the offers of mo money came and went. Every election cycle we found out that the offered mo money was more money for our pimp, not for us. Instead of less tricks it was more. When we tried to object we got hurt.

The Soviet Union collapsed. Spain’s flirtation with anarchy fell into authoritarian socialism and after some bloodshed, came around to democracy as the least evil way to run a society. China is a mix of places. Where the party still dominates it is a shithole. Where capitalism has infested places like Hong Kong, Shenzhen, and Shanghai these places have exploded in wealth and disparity. We are at a generational turning point where the old guard of the last century is dying and losing elections. Sorry to say it, baby-girl, but this is the beginning of something impossible to avoid.

It’s one of the freakish things about abusive relationships. The victim keeps going back and the abuse keeps escalating. The cycle is well known. Obama was an abuser. Sorry, that’s what his term in office felt like to me. He spoke sweet words, said a lot, but his outcomes hurt us. Each time he would promise to treat us better, do some therapy, be a better pimp, and beat our ass back into the hospital. All the while making sure that we were out in public looking fine as fuck.

After all that, and now that he is gone, we somehow forgot the abuse and want him back. If we can’t have him then we want his bitch-in-chief, Billary. None of what we said in the hospital to the social worker means shit now. Jimmy Choo’s y’know. He took our Jimmy Choo’s with him. We want our pimp back.

The press is doubling down on the propaganda of Pimp Daddy US. They insist that Pimp Daddy US’ story was accurate. It was one of fear, of an unspoken fist in our stomach if we got out of line. Pimp Daddy never hit us in the face or above the neckline. Nobody ever saw the scars. We had to bring him his money, after all. The scars are there. Our John’s saw them.

Now that we don’t have Pimp Daddy we don’t know how to live. Self reliance? What is that? We haven’t shopped for ourselves in Walmart in 8 years. The people who shop at Walmart are missing teeth and can’t speak proper English. You want that for us? We always went to Nordstrom to the personal shopper desk with Pimp Daddy’s card. He always ordered in from a stack of takeout menus. We got thick but he said he liked it.

He’s gone. We went to the doctor and doc says we are diabetic, have high blood, are ?!obese!? and could die if we don’t quit living this way. The HIV test was negative but doc wants to test us again in 6 months. Our pimp daddy god-king left us to go on vacation in Palm Springs. How could he?

Yes, self-reliance. change the things you can, let go of the things you can’t, and pray for the wisdom to know the difference. Nothing changes if nothing changes. We who spent time in meetings have a bunch of these. Change who you worship. Get a new god-king because the one in Washington D.C. dates “models” who turn up on porn sites. Melania is just a high-class mail order bride. Think what you will of the last 2,000 years of idiot followers of that martyred Nazarene carpenter. I’ll put my martyred carpenter up against Cheeto Satan Melanic Dumpf all day. We try to use foundation to cover the bruises but we are not so different from you.

Who would you give your fealty to? A magic brown man who didn’t care enough to shoot Cheeto Satan? Cheeto Satan himself? How about . . . that dead guy the Romans killed whose followers claim is still alive and conduct a cannibalistic ritual meal of his blood and flesh? Is fealty to him, to the Nazarene carpenter any less insane, less absurd than fealty to a rich John with a taste for expensive whores?

In an insane age, in an age where the dominant language is imagery and video, the image of the crucified Christ remains powerful and good. The cross makes sense in this bonkers shit show we were born into. Cheeto Satan will do whatever. The teeth knashing over his latest crime against socialism will continue until he leaves office.

For eight years I deepened my marriage to the cross. I prayerfully sought ways to serve my neighbor, my kin, and my enemies. I have been blessed to be granted chances to do small acts of kindness, sometimes with love, sometimes not. That doesn’t change because Pimp Daddy US is out of office and playing golf until winter break is over and his daughters have to come back to school. Cheeto Satan is just a side show as it concerns the practice of my faith.

Last year some protesters stood across the freeway and stopped traffic for half an hour. They wanted us to care about black people, to understand that black lives matter. Not more than a mile from their protest is public housing where numerous churches and NGO’s are working to get the residents out of there and into stable lives. It is hard, frustrating work that goes largely unnoticed. It is stunning to me that a dozen people would block traffic and claim that black lives don’t matter in complete ignorance of the work under way in Richmond’s public housing. This says a lot about the protest community.

Cheeto Satan? Whatever. Some of what he’s doing was going to happen either by intent or by disaster. Pimp Daddy built a house of cards that was going to collapse anyway. At least Cheeto Satan wants to take it down card by card rather than just let it collapse.


I’ll end here. If fear is a powerful force in your life then you have surrendered to a false-god. You worship a lie. God made you fearfully to love him more dearly. He loves you and wants you to thrive. There is no such thing as courage. Courage is what we say about someone who was terrified and did the needful. To conquer fear get a new god, a real god, who is love. The threat to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego was not myth or an empty one. The miracle would be less amazing if it were not as the bible tells it. Yet these three men were willing to die for their faith. They risked death and found freedom. That’s an awesome god, way better than Pimp Daddy or Cheeto Satan.

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Secrets

Let me explain the title of this piece. This aphorism, “secrets have a way of getting out,” was in my head as I watched our local TV station report the march on Broad Street because Dumpf was inaugurated. Dumpf’s opposition is desperate for a secret that will kill his ability to be President. The secret that keeps revealing itself is our national general anxiety now that Pimp Daddy US has flown to Palm Springs to devote himself to golf.


NO TRUMP, NO KKK, NO RACIST USA! NO TRUMP, NO KKK, NO RACIST USA! NO TRUMP, NO KKK, NO RACIST USA! NO TRUMP, NO KKK, NO RACIST USA! NO TRUMP, NO KKK, NO RACIST USA!

I said in an earlier post that anxiety never speaks of life or victory. It speaks of death and injury and misery and trouble and toil. It is what God gave us so we don’t get eaten by a sabertooth tiger. I’m making this edit three weeks after I first posted this piece. Our current national mood feels like an anxiety fueled tantrum where we don’t want to understand that this was inevitable. The secret is that Dumpf is destiny.

It’s a lot easier to be against something than it is to be handed the royal scepter. I can happily write a million words of snark, never advocating for an answer and it is of little consequence. We have had a professional class of agitprops for as long as I remember. These folk make it their career to be agin it. It doesn’t matter what the thing to be agin is. They are just agin it. It has happened in history that the agitprops win and have the scepter because they killed the king. For the bulk of human history the way the regime changes is through war. Equally constant is the use of genocide to control a king’s enemies. One reason we are exceptional because we have been able to change kings without bloodshed for over two centuries. Trump is finding out that being mouthy and agin it is very different from being king.

I used to try to engage with them, to ask what they wanted. The answers were usually some foolish platitude like giving the people a fair deal. Anarchists would say they wanted to just wreck everything and replace it with governance by community boards. The Communists have tried in numerous places to enact their utopia only to find that the wealth moves into the black market and ignores them. Socialists are just communists that are willing to allow some private ownership of capital and tangible assets. Same deal, the core belief is that the community in the form of government is the better operator of the enterprises of an empire. It fails.

Now I leave them alone. I am a follower of the Way. I believe that Jesus of Nazareth died and was raised again on the third day. Read Σύμβολον τῆς Νικαίας for the rest of it. I don’t need to hate or fear or bother myself all that much with what happens in Washington D.C. The change I seek comes from being it. I’ve written extensively here about what that looks like. I’ll not repeat it here. The PUDFRB agitprops throw bricks through store windows with the same religious passion that I sing Amazing Grace. It’s a waste of time to deal with them. They are walking dead incapable of being light and salt.

We were headed, may still be headed for a Nazi America. We are almost there. We just need a leader who leads by either overarching patriotism or by a constant drumbeat of reasons to fear everything except the dear leader. Trump marks a delay in this, maybe. His opposition seems intent on furthering their goal of revolution to be replaced by some childish fantasy of what would make America great for them.

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It is a tactic. Find some juicy rumor about somebody and beat it to death on social media. Muster up a ton of righteous indignation. Keep at it because if you repeat an accusation enough times it gains the heft of truth. Lately, it is a finger pointed at the left, who have become obsessed with the idea that our president hired Russian prostitutes to piss on the bed that Obama once slept it. This is added to the steady drumbeat that Putin personally hacked the election and caused Cheeto Satan to be the most powerful man in the world.

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That’s one. We have Bradley Manning, nee Chelsea Manning, who has garnered enough sympathy by choosing to cross-dress that Obama commuted his sentence. This one goes way back for me. When I was naturalized as a citizen of the Peepul’s United Free Demokratik Republik of Berkeley I had to pass a quiz and sign a loyalty oath. I was given a classification: zzcc, for apprentice cab driver in a collective. It’s not a very high status. I would have scored higher if I had agreed to be classified after getting my first crazy check. High status goes to an African-American lesbian who has six kids by six different fathers and is on TANF, SNAP and so on. Even higher status is awarded to her if she is an addict.

What’s happened since is that guys have heard the unspoken message and decided that gaining status to get the girl means agreeing to be gender fluid. The penultimate is the love-fest for a treasonous spy simply because he decided to wear a training bra. See if this doesn’t sound nuts to you: that one could do anything, any depraved thing, and get a pass because they self-identify as trans-gender.

Young women are my krypton. I am a creepy old guy lurking about the tubes ogling women young enough to be my daughter. But . . . Chelsea Manning is my savior. I can simply declare that I self-identify as a twenty-something lesbian and solve my ethical issue. Since I now am Alice and not Alan, I am 22 and a lesbian, I gain status in my old PUFDRB home. I qualify for attaching Go-Pro’s to my shoes to get video of panties worn by SumYung HotTea and others. When challenged, I get to claim that I was born this way and am fulfilling my destiny.

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We are in trouble if your train of thought is, “sure, if that’s what makes him happy, let’s set up a personal shopping appointment at Nordstrom’s and drop some cash on a new wardrobe.” One of the inanities of some is that their rules are ok but those old rules by people they dislike, those rules are not ok. I’ve been in so many seminars by agitprops where after hours and hours of discussion the core boundaries that emerge have a strong resemblence to either the القرآن الكريم or the Bible. Efforts at wiping the slate clean are amusing to me because very often even though the past is disregarded it has a way of sneaking back into the resulting decisions.

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I am writing this on the Saturday after Trump’s inauguration. I had to turn off my phone because Inger is apoplectic. She started blasting Ray last night, who turns out to be surprisingly empathetic to Inger, and me and Felina. Through the fb meme storm, the story seems to be that she has made a home for herself in a house leased by Felina, who is the one among peers with the most legit presence. Inger is recently out of rehab and at risk of arrest because she’s blown off her drug-court judge and social worker. I don’t think I am giving too much away in saying this. So . . . yeah, Inger has garnered the ire of her housemates because she launched an epic fit. Nothing damaged that threatens the security deposit but also the house has a long weekend cleaning up. Felina doesn’t have a license. It was never necessary. The one vehicle owned by the house has expired tags. This is not a bunch that gives a rip about compliance. Felina is herself capable of epic latina angery storms. Ray and Felina managed to drive Inger to the psych ward without getting arrested. Not bad.

Inger’s tantrum seems to be an attempt at being pissed off enough, ugly enough, that she will be heard in D.C. and they will come correct and make Billary president. Inger is one of those who spent a few hours being booked and released from Richmond City Jail. She was charged with public intoxication and assault on a cop. That went well. Inger is still learning that attempting to motivate and lead by force of negative emotion is a game of diminishing returns. More hate has the opposite effect of what is intended. It’s power over a group diminishes to arrive at indifference. Inger should be out next week. It’s going to be rough because the hospital followed protocol and contacted her probation officer. Her near future will not signal very much virtue.

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There was a picture that raced about social media that claimed to be of a dead woman who had been left out in the cold with her child. So it was said, she and her child died on that bus bench because no one had stepped up to help her. The proffered answer was something program, NGO or government above and beyond what we are already doing. There was very little bandwidth given to the thought that we, without a program, could bring a cup of soup to that woman and sit on the bench with her, talking. No, it had to be Pimp Daddy US who had to do something more.

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Service is ugly. It messes with your orthodoxies. The usual tropes, that the guy asking for help is somehow damaged and undeserving of mercy, get stomped on. The other, that we are not enough, or that sacrificing will put us in jeopardy, are both shown to be false by the many who have sacrificed to give mercy and find that God has blessed them.

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Back to Chelsea. I have no interest in what underwear you choose to wear or whether you decide to be something other than whatever ugly you were born with. Neither is it noteworthy to me if you love a partner who shares your same genitals. There are two things I care about: parenting and dysfunction. For me, there are two genders: parents and non-parents. If you are a parent then I care about how you raise your kids and what that will mean to us as we have to cope with your progeny. Dysfunction should be obvious. If the reason you have decided to be an outlier and choose some gender identity that isn’t cis-male or cis-female is some bitterness or mental health thing–fix that. It’s the bitterness and the cray-cray and the way that makes an impact on us that matters to me. Whether you end up as two sausages or two oysters or whatever but are otherwise mostly healthy it is the healthy that I wish for.

I am struck by my encounters with some within the LGBTQ world. Rather than take what is noble and good about men or women they seem to like being obnoxious. The caricature they present as their true selves isn’t what we would wish from the better parts of what masculinity or femininity means. No, it’s the trashy stuff, the stuff where men or women are being asshats. That’s what seems to define the transgender set. They choose the aspects of men and women that are shameful and shove it in our faces as the real identity. It makes good copy and a terrible lifestyle.

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Things are going to change. It looks like a lot of the bribery of the Demokrats that they were using to stay in office is at risk. I am ok with this. What the Demokrats were offering through Billary was something we couldn’t keep doing. We are broke, America. Pimp Daddy US doesn’t have our money. The only difference between Dumpf and Billary was the severity of the collapse. With Billary the PUDFRB agitprops would get their D.C. in flames and a government that would have to shut down because it could no longer pay its bills. With Dumpf it may still happen but not as soon as it would have with Billary.

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I’m repeating myself  in this next. Empires come and go. Emperor’s rule and die. Dynasties rise and fall. The circle of life continues. Dumpf is done in at most, eight years. In the meantime, if you want to change the world the means to do so hasn’t changed. If you have not befriended your neighbor now would be a good time to do so. If you are renting now would be a good time to look for land to buy. You want something with a lot big enough to support a small garden and maybe a few chickens. If that’s illegal where you are maybe use all that political animus to get the county or city to approve of keeping chickens. Humbly seek to strengthen your relationships to those around you. Trust your instincts. Listen with both ears and be slow to speak. You’ll know what to do.

We change the world by being the change we seek. I know, it’s a cliche. Whatever. Still, do the small acts of kindness, be merciful and gracious first. Remember this? אם אין אני לי, מי הוא בשבילי? אם אני רק לעצמי, מה אני? ואם לא עכשיו, אימתי? This also: עשו לאחרים את מה שהייתם רוצים שיעשו לכם – זאת תמצית התורה ודברי הנביאים.

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Felina Novella

#felinaramos. Felina Ramos is my own personal, IRL soap opera. She is my guilty pleasure. I unfollow her on Facebook and then lurk. Everything about she and I is trouble. Yet I still vacillate  between following her, ignoring her, lurking her and going back to following her.

Yeah, what now? Right. She puts a message out on her wall that after she has had some sleep she wants a ride to a fast food place. Her offer is to buy from the dollar menu and also pay for a meal for her driver. I said I could do better than that. All normal and not blog post worthy. This is Felina, though. I get there and unlike previous excursions she comes out the door shaking. There is a tempest alive in her house between her cousin, her auntie, and her. Cops have been called. Contraband hidden. 3 latina women in full battle mode doing their level best to tempt the other into a fight. Entertaining for me and sad to see.

The cousin is learning a hard lesson. Once you escalate to fists there isn’t much else you can escalate to and have the same effect. The next level up is bloodshed and either a combination of jail and hospital or the morgue. The cousin’s attempts at psychological warfare are falling flat. She’s already used the nuclear option so another nuclear option is greeted with, “meh.”

I spent a few minutes with Felina on the front lawn teaching her some basics of sword fighting that enable a warrior to be cold in the middle of a fight. Hollywood has orgasms telling pornographic depictions of war as passionate. Actors get to display great emotion, to *ACTING* on camera. It’s all bullshit. A good soldier is no more excited by battle than he is by his morning shit, shower and shave. This is achieved through training and some simple techniques. I showed Felina some of those techniques so she could sooth herself and be effective.

A little more about the technique. You have seen Bruce Lee and others go through dramatic motions and vocalizations to focus their energy. That’s for camera. The real technique isn’t obvious to those uninitiated. It also doesn’t stand out because a swordsman should live this way so that there is no shift between battle mode and life mode. It is the way he is. He is never not practicing bushido.

Back to Felina. After the cops came, after the cousin lost the momentum, we went to the bodega to make groceries. Felina is a hot mess. She is also a good catholic girl who can’t escape her confession of faith nor her anger at the church. Felina, when she begins to be attracted to a guy or a girl, has expectations of the prospective partner. One of them is that when she complains of being hungry said partner should offer to feed her. Whelp . . . the current bae is a very fashy boy. He is tall & skinny, olive toned, of non-obvious lineage, with sharp green eyes and fiercely blond, nappy hair. He favors androgenous fashion, mixing thick cowboy belts with leggings, ripped jeans and wildfang sweaters. He is also a rather fine snowflake, expert at the approved fashy signals.

So, we’ve all been there. You go to the kitchen, hung over, dreaming of a favorite cure, and upon a search of the cupboards, find that the cunt cousin has scarfed down what you had hoped to eat. Through the fog of the hangover you remember that you ended last night having to get the bae to pay for your Uber home because this week’s check got smoked on a bar tab. There was a fight with the bae because he was not being very copacetic and you were drunk. So, the refuge of a millennial, social media, becomes a place to shout out your annoyance and desperation. What’s the reply of all those fashy friends to your plight? “Wow, that sucks. Wish I could help but . . .” Bae isn’t returning your texts or replying to voice mail. A quick trod around the tubes turns up a thread on gab.ai where the bae is flirting with some yup bitch. Asshole.

Yeah, so . . . all that virtue signalling about the plight of the downtrodden and when one of ours is ass-out the sincerity is smoke on the water. This isn’t just a thing with the fashy protest crowd. My brethren, confessed Christians, do this. Actuality is scary. It threatens our bubble and we react by trying to push it away. Guys like my Uncle Gary and people like Felina, who are an affront to a few orthodoxies, at first generate an itch to shun.

My Jesus was a badass. He was a carpenter who ate with thieves. He did scandalous things that insulted the establishment of his day. I don’t hear him saying to me, “Wow, Felina is a handful, stay away from that mess.” No, he says to me, “learn to love her as I would love her. Serve her as I would serve her.” Ruh roh. That’s not inside my comfort zone. Watching three women go at it is not my idea of a pleasant Sunday afternoon. Listening to Felina hope that her cousin is arrested isn’t the sort of Gauloise fueled conversation I imagine I could have with a girl like Felina. Yet, here I am, leaning on the fender of my Impala, waiting for the storm to subside.

She had me on her front lawn and bae on the phone. Fashy boy was begging off. He had to work overnight at Denny’s and didn’t have any clean uniforms. The circle of friends she engaged with on social media evaporated as she posted about the fire fight under way between cousin and auntie. Everybody was broke, out of town, had to work, car trouble . . .

I did my small act of kindness with some love. I dunno about great love. Felina is on my list of folk who are a challenge to love. She is this big storm of hot mess that seems untamable. At the bodega she lit up buying Haitian items. I had a whole different list in my head when I offered to make groceries. No matter. Part of my task is to do these acts of kindness agenda free. It was illuminating to see what she bought.

On the way back she was negotiating a night away from the house. Bae wasn’t pleased. He didn’t get that a standard piece of advice is to stay away for a bit until things calm down. She was just going to drop the groceries and get a ride to the friend’s house. Cousin’s parting shot was a post on social media that Felina was trading nekkid favors for what I spent at the bodega. As if. But, in the hour since we left the cops had calmed things down and the auntie had started some red rice and stewed chicken. So, from my passenger window she said her goodbyes and went back inside.

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Hello 2017

I don’t have 1500 odd words on a single topic. I have a storm cloud of random thoughts buzzing around like knats on meth. So, this post will be a little (a lot) scattered. Your normally crazy-making, pugnacious blog posts will resume soon enough.

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We have been told for a century that we have no agency, we can’t do it ourselves, we must keep taking what pittance Pimp Daddy US deigns to grant us and praise him for his benevolence. We don’t need to burn down D.C. or anything that dramatic. Just move our commerce into the black market. Yes, some of us will get arrested for failing to pay taxes and such. That’s the cost of doing business in an authoritarian, socialist republic. Pimp Daddy US has never been able to completely shut down the extant black market so I don’t see him able to do so anytime soon. Self-reliance, the thing of 2017.

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These are the current cabinet departments under the Executive Branch: State, Treasury, Defense, Attorney General, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, Health & Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Education, Energy, Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security. 15 huge bureaucracies that have an enlightened self-interest in continued existence. In addition, there is the White House Chief of Staff, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Trade Representative, the Ambassador to the United Nations, the Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors, and the Administrator of the Small Business Administration. 7 more bureaucracies that are treated like Cabinet level offices in the Executive Branch which also want to continue to get funding.

Congress has its own administrative organization feeding from the trough of Pimp Daddy US. You have to also add in the lobbyists, who are a hidden fifth element of the federal government. Much of the sausage making of governing this empire happens inside the offices of law firms lobbying on behalf of their clients. They provide the staff needed to write the laws, provide congress with the digests of the legislation written, advocate for the laws desired by their clients and provide cover for congressmen and senators who want to claim that the junket to the Turks and Caicos was a working one. We won’t be able to do much with the licentious relations happening on K-Street. Free speech, etc. There are things we can do, though.

We are a multi-trillion dollar economy. We are one of the wealthiest and largest empires in history. It takes a government of a certain size to run this massive empire we have made. That said, we have built an unwieldy and ineffective bureaucracy in the Executive Branch that has become a tail eating serpent. It no longer exists to serve the President or us. It exists to serve itself and to grow. We will not fix our present malaise unless we cut this cancer on the republic down to size. So, if I were king (no danger of that), I’d do several things. First, day one,shut the government down for a hundred days. Essential services like Defense and Homeland Security would stay in operation. Everything else, though, would be shuttered. All Executive orders would be suspended pending review. Next, these cabinet offices would be kept: State, Treasury, Defense, Attorney General, Commerce, Transportation, Homeland Security, White House Chief of Staff, Office of Management and Budget. The others would be shut down over two years. The work they do would be turned over to private, non-profit entities with supporting law and/or regulation through the Attorney General to ensure they behave themselves. These entities would not receive federal funding.

Dumpf campaigned on “Drain the Swamp”. The first president to take a serious whack at the bloated fourth branch of the government will get crucified by the press and those with a vested interest in sustaining it. The opposition will unleash all the political dirty tricks they have. It will be a fight for power unlike anything we have seen since the Civil War. If that president survives the fight and manages to eliminate the Cabinet departments I’d like to see gone it will have the effect of taking money out of Congress’ hands and out of the kitty of any following President, maybe. Anything done on an Executive Order can be reversed by succeeding Presidents. Part of the victory will be to tie the hands of any successors so that putting back the eliminated Cabinet Departments will be too politically expensive. Swamp drained. Power in Washington reduced. Both good things.

I am not so naive as to believe that shrinking the Executive Branch will make the government less corrupt. Wealth and power are like water. They find their own level. In the absence of power vacated by the Executive Branch something will step up to fill the void. We’ve had our century of feeding on Pimp Daddy US’s benevolence. Government is already corrupt. I’d like to try allowing that corruption to go somewhere else. Gone out of the White House maybe we can find a better battlefield on which to fight it to the death.

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I am reading James O. Hannay’s, “The Wisdom of the Desert”. Holy Crap! We are a bunch of glutinous wussies. I keep talking about living on less, devoting a whole blog post (Money) to it recently. I haven’t changed my habits. I still fuss over finding an afternoon at Starbucks on one cup of coffee to be too expensive. Will I follow through in 2017? The new year is 2 days old. We have 363 more days to see if I do.

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Ray RobertaBob’s rules to live by:

  1. Lidera con compasión y misericordia. Solamente después de que su encuentro con alguien desafíe su opción para comenzar con la compasión usted encuentra maneras de limitar creativamente su misericordia hacia ellos. Incluso entonces, considere a los monjes y su voluntad de sufrir más allá de lo que la mayoría de la gente consideraría sana.
  2. El perdón te hace libre.
  3. Constantemente pregunte si sus elecciones actuales le acercan a su deidad o interfieren con su relación con su deidad. Todo lo que te aleje de una relación sana con tu deidad debe dejar tu vida.
  4. Un poco de miseria es bueno para el alma. Algunos de lo que quieres sólo pueden venir a través de la lucha.
  5. El rey no es tu papá de azúcar ni tu amigo. Deja de esperar que él te cuide.
  6. La sabiduría comienza con parientes y amigos. Amad a vuestros parientes, amigos y enemigos por igual.
  7. La forma en que usted califica para ser servido es servir a otra persona.

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That’s pretty much it. I joined my local YMCA as 2016 neared an end. I’ve done 3 workouts so far. I’ve been on diabetes meds long enough to be addicted and overly tolerant of their effects. Bringing my disease under control will mean more addictive/damaging/powerful meds or a much more impactful change in habits. If you want to pray for something, pray that I’ll get it in gear and eat better/exercise more. I’ve said enough about my money dysfunction. It’s not a matter of more knowledge or more words. New Year’s Resolutions are slow-news-day filler. I am a writer. Talking about doing something isn’t the hard thing. It’s the follow through. Stay tuned. This story will play itself out over the next few years. Keep reading the blog to find out how it ends.

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Money

1 Timotheum 6:10, “Radix enim omnium malorum est cupiditas quam quidam appetentes erraverunt a fide et inseruerunt se doloribus multis.”

Money is neither the answer nor the problem. It is not, by itself, the root of all evil. Money is how we have chosen to conduct our barter to acquire the things we want and need.

Deep in my genealogy is British landed gentry. When times were good and we hadn’t decided to tell the crown to piss off, we didn’t need a job. We had our estates and the staff that ran them. Life was good. Wealth wasn’t defined in terms of the fatness of our wallet. Wealth was defined in terms of your position and the health of your land. We had money but it wasn’t a primary occupation for us.

Then we sided with the more obstreperous minorities within the Reformation and began to insist that the king was apostate. Kings. Kings can kill you because they are the law. We would not shut up. So, out of mercy, the Dutch let us move to Holland. What of our land? Gone. Everything that gave us status was lost. But . . . we were fighting heresy, so we were good with it.

Much happens and we end up in two places, Plymouth, Maine and Jamestown, VA., where many of us die trying to farm strange land using seed and methods from our manner homes. It didn’t help that the staff we had back before our departure to Holland were the subject matter experts. Still, there were heathens to evangelize and a utopia to make. Plus, the King of England wanted us dead. The heathens only wanted us to leave them alone.

This falls to me as a presumption that I am entitled to a certain degree of deference and station. Which, I worked hard at shedding. I was successful enough that I’ve been broke most of my last 36 years with times when I’ve called a shelter home.

I hear this a bunch from some, “If I had money I’d be straight.” To which I want to start talking about the lottery winners and other windfall recipients who blow through the money only to find themselves worse off. Just having money isn’t the answer.

In Christian history are many who read Luke 9:3 and abandon everything for faith that God will provide. Todd White is part of a long tradition of ascetic Christians. Todd is one of the few who succeed at living on 5% of their income. He’s not as extreme as some of the Egyptian Desert Fathers who chose completely inhospitable land to locate their hermitages. It can be done. It is done. Could I do this? No. I’m too soft, too attached to my heritage.

Todd and other ascetics could not survive if there were not a much larger majority of dutiful working stiffs who faithfully tithe, do their annual two weeks of vacationary, serve on church committees and so on. For a time, it was a grudge I held against God that I wasn’t more like Todd. Why didn’t status fall from the sky? Why didn’t someone recognize how awesome I was? Why was I yet again elbow deep in a commercial pot-wash sink cleaning pots after a church supper? Don’t they know who I am?

Yes, they do. Which explains why I end up pot washing. An old aphorism, “Live on 80% of what you earn before taxes. 10% goes to charitable giving and the other 10% goes to savings.” Right. If I did that it would ruin my current financial habits. I could not live as I do on 20% less of what I make.

It is almost the end of 2016. My troubled relationship to money goes way, way back. Money for me, is for spending. A highlight of my week is the Saturday afternoon grocery run where I shop for what my heart desires. Within a few hours I have lots of stuff and less money. Like an old heroin addict I know I have a problem but keep being addicted because it is how I feed the monkey and avoid feeling sick.

I keep having the same conversation with a parade of kin and friends. They ask how much I make and how much my bills are. I answer and the stark truth is there is a wide gap of unaccounted money between what I make and what I say my bills are. My claims at being unable to tithe or save because I can’t afford it don’t ring true. With each conversation the kin or friend walks away suspicious that I am not being completely honest. I’ve been asked many times where the money goes.

You can ask me. I use Quicken diligently. I balance all my accounts to the penny. I make an effort at tracking how I spend my cash. I can almost answer the repeated question with some accuracy. Quicken in its own way embarrasses me because it too can’t figure why I finish each month scrambling to make the rent. It too, though inanimate, wonders where the money goes.

This is the time of the year when I feel the ache of my spendthrift ways rather acutely. I am scratching the itch to once again promise that next year will be different, again again times 36. Rather than iterate the same old tropes about Dave Ramsey‘s Baby Steps, Rockefeller’s 10/10/80, and others I’m spending these 1500 words confessing my failed habits with money.

And talking about some goals which will demand that I do what I have promised for almost 40 years—treat money as something to be saved. My rented house is valued at $33,000.00. Realtor.com pegged it’s sale price at $41,000.00 or so. That works out to around $370.00/month. I pay $600.00/month in rent. There is a lot of room for cost reduction if I am able to buy my house on a 15 year fixed rate mortgage.

All well and good. How much money do I have saved for this? You guessed it. 0 Zero Nada Nothing. Typical me. Great ideas, terrible follow through. And another thing. I like travel. I like the trips to Boston I’ve done for Chinese New Year. This year I am pulling this feat off in a last minute binge of cab driving on the weekends. Why haven’t I saved for this? You don’t know me well enough. I said it above, for me, money is for spending. One more. I ain’t so young anymore. It’s not that long before I am expected to quit my day job and live on my savings. My non-existent savings.

Ok, one trope, forgive me. Us who have hurts, habits or hangups have a high tolerance for pain. We continue our malfunction way past when most people would have sought help changing. It has to hurt bad enough that we are moved to not just initiate change, but stick with it. 36 years living this way is a lot of stubborn loyalty to being a spendthrift. So . . . saying here that 2017 will be different doesn’t mean much.

Rehab, hospital, jail, or all three repeatedly until something changes or the something that changes is a move to the morgue. There may not be as severe a risk with money that there is with other hurts, habits or hangups. Still, I’ve been homeless more than once living as I have. You would think I’d have ached bad enough to keep behaving better. You would think.

This week the press will exult in all the promises we make for 2017 that we made for 2016 and kept up for a month or so. Gym memberships will spike and then collapse by March. Some of us devote hours to lovely looking spreadsheets projecting great progress on our debt and spending habits which become so much bullshit almost as fast as we upload them to the cloud.

The end of this story can be told in two years. If, by then I have changed my ways and spent 24 months using money as something to be saved it will be a trend worth noting. It’s been almost 40 years like this. Two years of fiscal responsibility will be something radical for me. If I am only my past then in two years I’ll have yet more stories to tell of FUB‘s and near disasters as I keep doing the painful things I’ve done so far with my money. Mark your calendars. My history isn’t encouraging.

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Knowing You


The last question in the Explore God series was, “Can I know God personally?” There is no reasoned answer to this question. That said, nearly 500 years of Calvinist tradition says, yes, yes you can. With something like this, though, tradition and reason are not enough. You either feel it as a yes or you don’t.

First, our pastor Sarah Marsh, said this in her sermon. Next, my first reflex was to say, no you can’t know God personally. The God I know is a jealous god. He is uncompromising in his demand for surrender and devotion. If you want to know Jesus a lot of the life you have now is going to die. Remember, this is a god who launched a new kingdom by being martyred.

Another reason you can’t know God personally is modern science. Jesus is booga-booga-booga weird. We tell people that they have to die to live, to give to get, serve to be served, be a servant to lead. Being Christianity is living in a topsy-turvy world where Carol’s Wonderland is not strange. A lot of the Bible is starkly bonkers. Knowing God is the realm of the heart. If you try to bring empirical reasoning to understanding God your head will hurt. God isn’t reasonable. He is reliable. To know God you have to surrender some of that itch for utopia we get from my Puritan ancestors and some of that surety that through science we can understand how many angels fit on the head of a pin.

Next, I was raised in the church. I’ve been saved longer than I’ve not been. I’m not perfect, far from it. Dig far enough back in this blog and you’ll find plenty that I have had to apologize for. I spent some of my youth accusing my Dad and the church of various high crimes and misdemeanors. For a time I knew God as a stern taskmaster who disapproved of me and my behavior. It hasn’t been that long since I surrendered deeply to God.

img_jesusWhich, sort of makes me the worst one to write about this. I already believe. I know God, know Jesus. It took me a while to come around to this. I was/am a fan of apologia, of criticism of the church. Damned hypocrites, look at them.

You are going to hear all the standard answers from ordained graduates of seminary. They studied hard and I applaud them for their hard work and consequent knowledge. Their answers are worthy. Mine is not. Mine is the answer of a cantankerous man who wasn’t always this devoted to God. Mine is a lifelong relationship that has swelled and faded. God never stopped knowing me nor loving me. It is I that have shunned him at times then come home like a repentant prodigal son.

When, for the first time in my twenties I quieted down and started to listen, God had some stuff for me to do. First, shut up. No, really, be quiet. Next, all my bluster about how no one is doing anything for that little kid I saw on TV growing up, the one staring up at the camera with big eyes, God said this, “You do it.” Me? Help? When I am a wretch? When I am the one entitled to being protected from my own hot mess, coddled and spoon fed. Yep, I am to do it. I and all the other hot messes that came to Jesus.

The creator of the Universe talks to me, to this hot mess. I hear voices, hear His voice. Crazy, right? Yep. I’ve heard him since the age of 14 when he appeared to me in a vision I had while praying at summer camp. Though, his voice isn’t the lovable, round Pappa I want him to be. He’s a carpenter. He’s short, brown-skinned, curly haired and a bit thick by modern standards. His language is rough. He knows me so when I try to game him it doesn’t take him long to checkmate me. He’s the one that was in my head cussing me out when I complained yet again that I was out of gas, out of money, out of cell-phone minutes, without even change for the parking meter. He was the one laughing at me when lately I tried to catch a kitten and failed in entertaining ways.

I can’t make you agree that you can know God personally. I can only tell you that I have come to count him as an intimate friend. Know this, I tried other ways of living. I tried to keep God out of my head. All those years of Sunday School, my baptism, catechism class and the many books I’ve read and still, there is no place like my usual spot on the left side of the sanctuary, toward the front, singing hymns badly and listening to Keith and Sarah and others talk about Jesus.

The third thing God asked of me is to work for change within the church. This means I had to sign up for the full program. I am responsible for my own worship, prayer, tithe, study and service. I have to show up. Beyond that, I have to participate. Beyond that I have to contribute. Beyond that I have to serve, to serve without hope of return or desired outcome. Out of these five responsibilities I have built my relationship to God, to Jesus, to know Him. And out of *that* I can become a voice for change within the church.

Husbands know this. Many times the sexiest thing a man can do for his wife is dishes. Families are hot beds of chaos and strife. The kids are taxing, the workload withering, the ways it fails constant and numerous. Into that a guy tries to hug her and ask for a little affection. One more demand of her, one more too much. But, he’s entitled, right? It’s all over the Bible, that guys come first, get served, helped by their wives. Uhm, actually . . . no. Knowing God is a kind of death to all that came before, all that binds us to the worries of the world. Dishes are the least of it. And . . . if you remember, it is Adam that is cleaved to Eve and her family, not the other way around.

God is in some ways, a jealous husband and we are his bride. He demands that we give and give and give and it just doesn’t seem to be fair. He is demanding, his people are hotbeds of chaos and strife. Church people are taxing, the commitment withering, the ways that sin intrudes are constant and numerous. Into that arrives you, full of anguish and hope that this Jesus thing could work out for you, with your one more demand too much. Yet these Jesus people seem to be crazy in love with an absurd God. Either they are nuts (we are) or there is something to this God who does a reset by dying.

The central narrative, metaphor for life in Reformed faith is the cross. It is in death and resurrection that we find our knowledge of God and a life as a disciple of Christ. Our greatest heroes are those who made deep sacrifices, even unto death. So, I almost don’t want you to know God. You have to be ready for this. You have to risk your life to gain it. The prayer itself is trivial. Altar calls are ecstatic experiences for some. I worry about the commitment, the days after, the work of being in a relationship with God. All five of my responsibilities involve sacrifice of some sort. Are you ready for this? Are you ready to die on the cross to be reborn stripped naked and having to start over?

I’m really good at words. I’ve been in enough therapy, sat through enough Sunday School classes, that I can confess like the best. It’s all a front, though. My slings and arrows flown against the church accusing it of hypocrisy said a lot about my own life. God took me all the way to the street and to jail. He met me in my truck, out of gas, out of money, out of cell phone minutes, homeless, a convicted wife beater, in a phone call with a cocaine addict who wanted a ride to the grocery story. Boom.

If you are ready, cool. There are plenty who will welcome you and become your family in Christ as you live this new life. It doesn’t have to be me. Most Sundays you can find me in my usual spot, singing praise songs badly at St. Giles church. If you do choose me, beauty. We can walk together as we live out our promise to be a disciple of Christ.

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