Cutting Deep

My buddy is soothing himself by trying to arm himself and his friends. He doesn’t want to die nor be invited to a memorial service for those dear to him. I get it. I don’t want to die either. But beyond a pistol and maybe a shotgun more weapons are just more weapons. They do not increase your ability to fight.

Our military makes our infantry hump 80-90 pounds of gear. There is so much wearable tech on them that they can’t really fight and use the tech they were asked to wear. The answer? Load on more tech. Our enemies walk on to the battlefield with a knife, an AK-47 and a pistol. They don’t wear visible body armor or helmets or any of the crap our guys suffer with. They can’t call in air support or cruise missiles. They kick our ass, repeatedly.

How do you fight an MRAP? Build an IED and get out of dodge. How do you fight a platoon of US Soldiers? Lay down overwhelming small arms fire for 15 minutes and then get the hell out of there. Why 15 minutes? It takes that long for air support to arrive. Simple analog scanner radios will give you enough chatter to piece together what we are saying to each other. Command and communications can be done with smart phones using Viber. Osama Bin-Laden communicated by courier who memorized the messages and drove on a scooter to different sites daily to transact messages. That simple tactic kept him alive for a while.

Musashi famously won duels with a wooden practice sword against steel wearing only a cotton kimono, a hakama and rice straw slippers. The other guys were dressed out in full Samurai kit. If more better kit were a difference maker why are the families of Musashi’s enemies the ones that lost kin?

But . . . us first worldies love our Hollywood ideas of war, of Star Wars Storm Troopers with 3D VR helmets and RoboCop sexy weapons. We want bad guys to be 100 foot tall transformers. Dusty sheep farmers in the poppy fields of Afghanistan are just the wrong trope. It can’t be that the guy getting drunk on local hooch in a hut beside a poppy field is a war-lord. That’s just not right. Worse, that he could be winning against our guys with just a bolt-action rifle and some stunning marksmanship, that’s wrong, plain wrong.

So, my buddy, seduced by Hollywood, is filling his life with tacticool. Worse, he is mailing tacticool to friends like me and pestering us because we haven’t been to the dollar store to by the latest AirSoft automagic pepper-ball gun with laser sights and robotic ammo maker included. That I haven’t bought a Maverick 88 shotgun yet is a problem for him. Sucks to be him.

❤ ❤ ❤

That’s one thing rattling about my heart. The next two happened together. I have made it to Boston to see my son for the last three years. I was there from Thursday night until last night. Before that on Wednesday while I was at work my pastor called. The middle-aged son of one of our elders was in jeopardy. His wife had thrown him out in a bipolar tantrum. He had gone the full-monty. Married her and worked for her Dad and lived in an income property owned by the Dad’s brother. Without the woman he had no job, without a job he couldn’t pay rent. Without paying rent he was ass-out. Everything he was and he had was with that woman. She put him out.

I planned on driving a cab on Thursday then getting on a plane after my shift. I didn’t have time to deal with a church member who had spent the night in a Sunday School classroom on a cot and had no place to go. But . . . I am that guy who has loudly boasted that if you need something, ask and I’ll do my best to help out. Plus, this was my pastor on the phone asking. Shit.

So, with trepidation I offered him a night staying with me but he had to be out before I left for Boston. He agreed. I proceeded with my plan, made the money I needed and realized I was out of time. I did not have time to get home, get packed, get myself to the airport and deal with an unexpected guest who had no place to stay. What to do?

A lot of us would never have let him stay to begin with. We have our own shit to deal with. We are busy, struggling, trying to make our way and keep our heads above water. Making a difference is a bonus. We would have ended the cab shift early and told the house-guest to git or there would be a cop-calling argument. I feared losing a few hours to an argument which would cause me to miss my flight and screw up a half-year of planning.

I don’t know about the God you worship but mine can be a pain in the ass. He took me at my word when I said I wanted to help. So . . . I’m still headed to my last fare for the day 15 minutes from where I was realizing I was out of time. I couldn’t deal with my houseguest. I let him in, though–for just one night, kind of. This sucked.

I made a choice. I had to. My flight was too soon and I valued my effort to put my trip to Boston together more than I valued tossing a new friend on to the street. I called my guest and explained that I didn’t have time for him so he was welcome to stay until I got back. So . . . he stayed and I went to Boston. A running narrative in my head all weekend was a worry as to what I’d find when I got back. If it was RayRoberta Bob I’d come home to alien puke and an epic post beer-bash mess. This guy, my guest, was awesome. He cleaned my house for me. He left me a note letting me know he’d update me when he could. Awesome.

❤ ❤ ❤

Boston. This was a bucket list thing for me. Some years ago I attempted to take the Empress and my son to Disneyland. It was awful. We fought the whole weekend. I had set up everything through a web site using a debit card. On arrival in LAX I found that I could not rent a car using my debit card and had no credit cards. We were stuck at the airport. It didn’t get better. We did go to Disneyland but it was a miserable weekend with the Empress plucking last nerves I didn’t know existed. Deep within me was an unspoken oath that I’d pull off a fly/hotel/car rental weekend some day.

Done. I flew JetBlue, stayed at Extended Stay America, a hotel chain the Empress and I stayed at when we first arrived in Virginia, and rented a Fiat 500x. This isn’t blog post worthy for a lot of my upper-middle class peers. It is what we do. For me it was a victory. Planning for this started two months ago with zero money saved for it. So, as I am capable of doing and kind of dislike doing, I used my talent for making things work out to git-er-done. Tim and I squeezed in some quality time, were able to talk about stuff he’s been stuffing, and eat Pho in Boston’s Chinatown among other things. Bedford’s H-Market is awesome. It’s food court is good. Worth a trip.

It’s Monday. The trip was draining. I’ve enjoyed having today to blog, eat, sleep and do chores before heading back to my cube-rat life whacking computers. I know those stories too. The ones where the family black sheep dies a John Doe in a public hospital leaving a legacy of empties and regrets. Some would say that’s what always happens. The paternal, “get it together or you’ll end up like that guy.” I am that guy. I took the road less traveled by and it has made all the difference.

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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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Thanksgiving

This is when we gather to be grateful, to give thanks. For us followers of Christ, it is a time to celebrate Him and his providence. No news there. My post will be one of millions reflecting on the holiday. Here is what I hope for: do some volunteering. Do a few random acts of kindness. Even better, do a random act of kindness that puts you outside your comfort zone. Try to share a table with someone whose values and lifestyle make you squirm. I’m not expecting epiphanies and repentance. I hope there can be conversation, a little loud and challenging maybe, but hopefully, enlightening.

ooxq6 My childhood Thanksgiving was fraught with anxiety. My Mom and her sister worked out a thing where my Mom would do Thanksgiving and Aunt Joan would do Christmas. My grandmother would attend both gatherings. Nothing there, right? Yeah, uhm . . . very definitely something there. All our generational hot mess was in full play for both celebrations. Thanksgiving and Christmas was a SuperBowl level competition between these two sisters to gain the bigger approval from their mother. This is Yankee women competing to put on the dog better than the other one. This is linen tablecloths, center pieces, the whole Martha Stewart thing. Victory meant you could shove this in the face of the other sister for a year. This was serious business.

We had a whole buffet cabinet devoted to the gear needed for this competition. Stored away in our basement was more stuff that only appeared for Thanksgiving Dinner and then was nervously packed away for next year. Love your enemies? Fa! Over the dead bodies of my Mom and her sister. There would be victory. The grandmother will say something approving of one of them. Or else . . .

Getting ready started just after Halloween. Everything packed away had to come out and be cleaned to within an inch of its life. The current Sears catalog had to be deeply read cover to cover with special attention to the sections on Home Decorating, China and Glassware. Anything from last year that wasn’t fashionable enough got dumped into a trash bag destined for Goodwill. There was shopping to do, gear to buy, ammunition to acquire. The right mix of family china and new linen had to be made.

The whole house had to be analyzed with a magnifying glass and scrubbed with a toothbrush. The four of us kids were under constant danger of getting screamed at for sullying the kitchen sink with a dirty spoon. God forbid we should dirty our clothes while outside playing. On the day, our obsessively pressed outfits were starched so stiff as to be cardboard boxes impossible to move in. We were manikins to be seen and not heard. It sucked wind.

My Dad would always drive to Barrington Heights to pick up my grandmother. We would wait with nervous anticipation at the arrival of the queen. We knew what was coming. It came at different points during the meal. It always came. One year it was at the front door as grandmother touched an end table and her white gloves were soiled by some forgotten dust. Mortifying. Another year a piece of the family silver had wandered under a couch to hide until the whole thing was over. That was worth a tortuous retelling of how long the Piersall’s had kept that silver set intact and how awful it was that my Mom would have to shop at Wanamaker’s for a replacement. There are not enough Hail Mary’s. The worst was a two month torment culminating in a boozy Christmas Day confession that grandmother thought my Mom should be straining the gravy before reducing it. Unspeakable.

So it went through my childhood. Thanksgiving does not bring warm memories of a Norman Rockwell scene with a beautiful roast turkey as a centerpiece. It brings back angst for my mother, who did amazing work putting on a big spread only to have her heart crushed by her mother somewhere between the third week of November and New Year’s Day. It is why I don’t like doing a big Turkey, stuffing, and so on.

My son chose yesterday, election day, to tell me that there are thoughts of mayhaps gathering at my Dad’s house for Thanksgiving. My plans hadn’t extended beyond mayhaps buying one of those already roasted chickens you can get at Kroger and a rice dish I just learned to make. I live by myself so a 20lb. turkey and all the fixings would feed me for a couple months. Maybe the roast chicken doesn’t rate but it also doesn’t fill my fridge with things that will spoil before I can eat them. I’m not excited about a hurried plan to visit my Dad in a couple weeks to share Thanksgiving with family who I am at times merely frenemies with. We’ll see.

It bugs me that starting now, the propaganda will shine a spotlight on miserable people and ask us again why with all our luxury, there are miserable people and what the fuck first worlder, why aren’t you carrying your weight? Miserable people are a constant. The opportunity to serve is constant. Like gym memberships in January, volunteerism spikes at this time of year and collapses once the press gets bored with the story. We are made to feel guilty that we are able to weigh down a table with food and bicker about important things like whether the replacement gravy ladle looks too new.

Eat. Enjoy. Get a little drunk, maybe a lot drunk. Our ascetic, puritan itches will survive a little gluttony. I’ll finish this story of Thanksgiving in a month or two once I’ve traversed the holiday. Find some people who are outside your regular circle of influence to share a table with. Use those two ears more than the mouth you are tempted to unleash. Those whose anus’ pucker when someone says something triggering will be fine. Oh, and, that missing piece of family silver? Found in the basement in it’s bubble wrap in a dresser under an old quilt made by my great grandmother. Weird.

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I Am Going to SCREAM!

Parents know this one. The kid decides to put on a no-holds barred, epic, knock-down drag out tantrum. It’s on, baby, it’s on. So, they do. And some parents don’t do well with this so it spins up and nobody wins. The fortunate kids have parents who are non-plussed and wait out the kid.

cross040708_03Some of the opposition has decided to cope with the loss by conducting a massive temper-tantrum. They believe they can be * a n g e r y * enough * l o n g * enough that we will fall into line, impeach Trump and finally coronate Billary like we were supposed to. Among the problems, Billary conceded the race to Dumpf.

But, I don’t write for the fat part of the bell curve that will go along and come along. My crowd is the thousands that took to the streets last night to protest Trump’s victory. Let’s get to the punch-line straight away. What y’all are advocating for is a Socialist Dictatorship led by a corrupt political machine populated with Southern Democratic criminals and Chicago machine political hacks. If Billary had won we would elect a woman for president that has a monstrous organized crime family behind her. The visible nipple is the Clinton Foundation. The whole tit nurses corruption that pervades the entire government and has milk ducts controlled by radical Muslims.

For a century Democratic populism has promised to nurse us, coddle us, protect us from aggression, micro and otherwise, basically, helicopter parent us. Obama was the ultimate pimp daddy who would get us free houses, free Cadillac’s and free cell phones. He said that he would make healthcare affordable. His means? Drastically expand an already monstrously large government that would intrude into our lives even more.

The Democrats showed their true nature last night as they took to the streets to protest the victory of Donald J. Trump. They revealed that they don’t want a democracy. They don’t want self-reliance and a government that supports individual freedom. No, they wanted Billary as a stepping stone toward coronating Hugo Chavez.

My tantrum lasted into my twenties when I met my paternal grandmother. I thought I was smart. I thought I knew how to game the grownups to get what I want. I was going to be famous and people would dote on me. My luvable fuzzball gramma would be standing at the threshold of her house with a piece of blueberry pie as 12 virgins carried me up her steps in a sedan chair. It was going to be great. I was great. So . . . uhm . . . yeah. That didn’t happen.

My great-aunt met me at the bus station and drove me to gramma’s house. There were some quick hugs & kisses, a few pleasantries, then I went to bed. In the morning she wasn’t there. She left a note in her manual typewriter saying she had gone to the radio station to do her show.  She had also left a bus schedule for the 43 bus line (18 line these days). I was to get my own breakfast and make my way to Pacifica Radio’s KPFA at Allston and Shattuck above Edy’s Ice Cream. Well I never . . . My Mom would never treat me this way.

I got there a bit before she had finished reading and talking about the Congressional Record. I waited, and once we were on the bus home began to whine about her hospitality, “You don’t have to live with me. You can leave my house when we get home.” Whoa. Just . . . wait. Hold on, just hold on. Worse, “apologize for being rude. Your father told me about you.” OMG. The insolance. Doesn’t she know who I am? Doesn’t she understand she’s looking at a future star? I turned from her and sulked for a few minutes then let out a weak, “I’m sorry, grandmother.” btw, “gramma”, never “grandmother”.

This election was a huge middle finger to the socialist establishment that had gotten too fat, too comfortable and happy that they could continue defrauding us and “electing” their candidates to office while getting rich off of their lies. The protesters last night demanding Billary as queen are pushing to enact the very tyranny they claim to hate.

But, it would be their rules, so that makes it ok. The oppressed would be those evil white people like me. Serves us right because we’ve had it good for two hundred years so a little genocide and theft is what is needed to put things right.

The revolutionary thing is happening right now. We had an election and the majority lost. In most places in the world this means years of bloody civil war over who will control the empire. Democracy is a rare and fragile thing that most often fails. What succeeds is benevolent, genocidal kings. Be good to those loyal to you and brutal to the opposition. This, that we are doing now, a peaceful transition of power, is the revolution.

My son’s tantrum visiting me lasted two weekend visits. He tried to be brattier than his bratty father. I emptied his room save for a thin foam mat. I cooked food I knew he would not eat. I archived his account on my computer so all his saved games were gone (he thought). My rule, that I can cause duress but not actual harm still applies. He learned he couldn’t win with me by throwing tantrums.

I also spent his childhood talking to him about giving grace first, about serving first, about how I am christian because without Jesus I’d be in a padded room heavily medicated. Next, I made sure he understood that he was loved by me, forever and amen. It was a big deal to me that blood can’t be severed by marital status. I would always be his father whether I was with his Mom or not. His Mom, though she is divorced from me and my family, still is one of us because she is my son’s mother. That too, is an unbreakable blood bond.

Thousands of protesters signaled their virtue last night. Yesterday and today there are millions in this country who need help. They are addicts, crazies, criminals and more. In dozens of cities across this land are the government owned apartment complexes representing the left’s Utopian vision of a docile proletariat happy to have subsidized housing and food stamps. There is work to do and all it takes is showing up at your local NGO to volunteer.

But, tantrums feel good. Tantrums signal that you CARE! DAMMIT! We don’t need your signalling. We need your bodies working in our communities to help those who need it transform their lives and become self-sufficient. Use that intertube thing, that oogle pipes whatever. They have listings. Then, actually show up. It’s not enough to like their MySpace page and post some meemz or go all meta and ritwyyt their call for volunteers.

My grandmother, as she watched the marches and violence of the Civil Rights movement from her living room in Albany, CA, came up with a plan. She was going to Mississippi to help. She found a small town there with some local artisans who had been selling their work in the streets. She met them, helped them form an artist’s cooperative, and through that co-op, changed some lives. It wasn’t loud, the signal was weak, it is forgotten by most, yet, she did more with her art co-op than will ever be accomplished by a mob throwing rocks at the cops.

Two-thousand years ago a no-account carpenter born a bastard began to teach. This dissident rabbi said he was kin to David, the son of God. His church leadership was so disturbed by his claims, his teachings and the miracles happening around him that they forced the Romans to crucify him. His little band of dissidents has grown to be a world-wide movement that thrives today. Through history these rebels have brought down governments and healed millions. They meet every Sunday and do a huge amount of work to serve the children, widows and the sick. You could be part of it. One last thing. If you join us your life will be destroyed and made new. Just letting you know.

thanksgiving-cross

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Educating Alan–Absurdism

You don’t matter. The universe, the world is a thing, unthinking, uncaring, available for ill will as well as beauty. The trees don’t care how you feel. The wind blows where it will. Whether you are addicted or some span of time clean and sober–the songbirds don’t care. They have their own problems to worry about.

St-Benedict-Dashboard-Crucifix2. it means nothing. There is no meaning to life. 42 is just a number. Your life doesn’t mean anything. Get used to this. That bunch of paint splotches on a canvas lovingly framed and hung in the modern art gallery of VMFA is . . . a bunch of paint splotches on a canvas. There is no homage to early Cheval. It does not quote Camus in its use of color. Stop saying that it is resonant with Chet Baker’s vocal pieces. The artist got lucky in convincing the VMFA to accept it as a piece worth recognition. Nothing means anything. It is all meaningless. So, enough with the “I taste hints of fair trade peppercorns and artisanal cork.” Need a source? Go read Ecclesiastes again.

Most of us will die unremarkable. After our funeral we become story. Even that story fades over time as those who knew us carry on. Some years hence our epitaph becomes a quant few words written in stone now eroded and illegible from the moss making its home on our grave. Seasons pass, the stone falls, slowly losing the fight with the grasses and wild-flowers to itself be buried. Our immortal story mortal and hence forgotten.

How much do you remember of Thomas R. Marshall? Who is Champ Clark? What were the dominant headlines when these men served our country? Can’t remember? Neither can I. I had to look them up. Even these men, who were notable in their day, are whispers in the minds of our grandparents. They mattered to some in their day. Now? Not so much. The same top-10 evils they got elected to fix still stumble about the halls of government only now these evils are ever more drunk on our tax dollars. “Plus les choses changent, plus elles restent les mêmes.

This is what Wikipedia says about absurdism: “In philosophy, “the Absurd” refers to the conflict between (1) the human tendency to seek inherent value and meaning in life and (2) the human inability to find any. In this context absurd does not mean “logically impossible”, but rather “humanly impossible”.[1] The universe and the human mind do not each separately cause the Absurd, but rather, the Absurd arises by the contradictory nature of the two existing simultaneous.”

So, what’s the point? Why not just shovel out a six foot hole, eat the earthworms uncovered in the digging, and resume room temperature. If life has no meaning why bother living? Roses. Roses are a reason to live. And chicken soup. The kind of chicken soup you get from making it yourself. Oh, and chocolate.

A man alone is insignificant. We are not alone. God observed Adam living alone and quickly decided he needed a helpmate. We are made better in the natural tensions in relationships. We  matter as one element of a larger whole called community.

We seek value and meaning and fail. The wind still blows where it will. Brer rabbit still becomes dinner for the fox. Wisdom begins in death to that which keeps us from God. We must die to this world to gain life in the resurrection kingdom. Our God, our Christ, is absurd. This popular saying, “god is love”, is nuts. God is love? Ok. Meaning? Does God even exist? Can you prove he exists? If God is love and he does not exist, does love exist? Who even cares?

Ok, enough of that. I got tired of therapy because it started to feel like I was one of those stuffed animals on display in the dioramas you find in Cabela’s. I was a side-show exhibit performing for the benefit of the therapist. I can’t sustain a down-in-the mouth, nihilist rant for long before my urge to start preaching about Jesus being our hope and savior becomes overwhelming. No, you are safe. I’ll check the impulse. Click here if you want that.

I’ve always rested on hope. I have faith in hope. That’s what gets me up in the morning, keeps me going in times like these when my only income is a stipend paid to me by the Virginia Employment Commission. I lean on Christ because it is He that has taught me a way which remains the one thing I can do and stay out of jail.

Everything about being Christian is absurd. I like this quote from the web site Rogue Theologians, “In both cases, the Absurd can be understood as a determined desire to move forward in the face of futility. This, I think, is the core notion of the Absurd. It is defiance of futility and defiance of despair (even while despairing)”. The whole essay is worth a read. More from the same essay: “For Kierkegaard, the Absurd is taking the Truth as it is even when reason, logic, rationality, and all such human things resist Truth. For Kierkegaard, faith is an absurdity that makes a human being capable of being authentically him or herself before God.”

Sorry, I couldn’t resist: this is meaningful to me: that God is love and love is a verb, thus God is also a verb. God isn’t a meaningless thing found in the depths of hell. Heaven is life, God is life, so heaven and god are thrumming, thriving, doing and living the love that is their core identity. I seek to emulate Jesus to the best of my ability. This means my task is to emulate, to embody love as a verb, Jesus as a verb. It doesn’t matter whether my labor means anything. My obligation to embody love as a verb doesn’t change because I’ll die forgotten soon enough. My work is to do what He called me to do and let Him worry about the rest. Absurd? Probably. I’m still on it.

 

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Bunch of Heathens

First Posted 24-July-02014

We’ve made a mistake at our church. In gathering some information about our neighbors, we ended the assessment with, “Tuckahoe Tom and Grove Avenue Gladys have yet to realize that the only way to ultimate joy and fulfillment, and to eternal life, is through Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Savior. Shouldn’t we tell them?” Our explanation for why folk don’t come to St. Giles is that they don’t know Cheeeeeezus. Oy. Really? Are we serious right now?

street preacherBack in the day, I was closer to the collective worry among Pentacostal Christians that we had not saved enough souls. The big emphasis was on gathering the unwashed and bringing them to heel at the altar. Somehow, it was our problem that there were still people vertical, warm & breathing who had not yet confessed their faith at the First Pentacostal Non-Demoninational House of Cheeezus. It pissed me off. It still does.

I am still annoyed at the noisy minority of Christians who tally saved souls on the inside back cover of their Bible. They talk of quotas, of bonus programs, threats of fire & brimstone of all the tactics sales managers use to increase sales. All well & good but day 2 and they are in the wind, a new heathen in their sights.

It’s a stereoptype, I know. This guy, the one with the white shoes, tropical tie, plaid pants, striped blazer, big Tootsie sunglasses and impressive, leather bound bible who is on the corner on a milk crate predicting the end of the world today so we all had better come to Cheeezus. He’s there on the corner reliably from 8am-5pm every weekday. What bugs me about him, and this is also a part of the stereotype, is that the same guy could be found in a strip bar, puke drunk, in a track suit throwing tithe dollars at strippers. All he wanted, all he needed, was for you to come to Jesus so he could get back to her, to Aprhodite, the 30-something blonde strine sheila who has been promoted as a nubile 18-year old freshie stripper for over a decade. The illusion works on stage. Off stage Aphrodite’s years of crystal meth addiction are obvious. Pastor Weenie isn’t throwing tithe dollars at the truth.

Pastor Weenie will never be found serving food in Monroe Park or on Missions in Honduras. His neighbor’s marriage worries are only interesting if they will help Pastor Weenie collect [cough] tithe dollars for, uhm, poor starving children in, uh . . . Bosnia, yeah, Bosnia, that’s right. He’s all about getting a confession of faith. After that he’s still aching for Aprhodite.

We do this as Christians. We don’t listen. We assign to those we encounter a back story made entirely of our own hurts, habits & hangups. Out of that we push a stream of sales rhetoric intended to get the target to agree with us. We sink energy into good intentioned and doomed to fail evangelism and missions projects because we launched on false premises. Pastor Weenie needs to get outed by Aphrodite. My hope for Aphrodite is that she’d go back to rehab and stick with it. We’ll get to the “come to Jesus” part in due time.

The first thing we have to start doing is shut up and listen. Start by being neighbors, by surveying gifts instead of serving perceived needs. (Yes, Lupton again.) My church is not immune to this thick-necked approach to evangelism & missions. We are not as bad as Pastor Weenie. We are still rather pig-headed.

There are a half-dozen churches within a mile of our building near Grove & Libbie in Richmond, VA. It’s such a useless idea that we have landed on the shores of a nubile pastoral utopia ripe for evangelism. One huge problem with Pastor Weenie is that in seminary he absorbed a false idol of the New World that should have died a long time ago. St. Giles shares some of that same delusion. We treat the Upper West End like it is the shores of the Chesapeake Bay in 1607. Nobody is served by 400 year old ideas of manifest destiny pasted on to our Upper-West End neighbors.

It’s hard to testify, to converse, if we start by telling other folk what’s wrong with them before investing in a relationship and open communication. Even those who don’t know Cheeeeeezus and seek Jesus are put in a tough place when faced with evangelism done this way. It’s the sort of thing that gets a “Well, bless your heart,” here in the capital of the South.

What happens to Pastor Weenie? He gets outed most of the time. There is a kerfuffle that blows across the airwaves for a couple weeks then falls out of the news cycle. There are consequences. In the case of Jimmie Baker there is a period of quietude and a rebuilding of the empire. My fictional Pastor Weenie is outed. His ordination is from the Universal Life Church. He lands at The Healing Place where he is kicked out for fraternizing with Amber Lewis (Aphrodite) and failing a piss test. He’s still a denizen of Monroe Park, still in & out of recovery meetings, on a merry-go-round of programs promising to finally get it together. Lewis is 3 years sober, reunited with her kids, living at an Extended Stay hotel, and working at Bob Evans. She’s got a restraining order on Weenie. She goes to church but asked me to not say which one because Weenie is still being a jerk.

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Toxic Food Boxes

First Posted 16-Jan-2015

2-Feb-2016, Richmond, Va.—It’s a bit curious to be editing this a year after I first posted it. At the time I wrote it I was a month into another job search. As was true last year I was one of those without an income and struggling to find ways to afford myself. It hadn’t yet been a year since I’d moved to my house. The memory of being homeless still loomed. What an awful fear, to have gotten this house and so soon lose it. All those who gave money, time & furniture to helping me make it a home. All that gone. I’ve been in my house for 15 months now. I found a job last May that paid double what I usually make. I finished out the year making significantly more than I averaged annually over the last seven years. I still fear the street. I am encouraged that maybe I can rest in my success and build on it.

Pestele, simbol crestinI read Robert Lupton’s “Toxic Charity” last summer. I’ve taken Lupton’s message to heart. I get it that folk want to help, want to relieve a bit of the misery of some through direct giving of boxes of food. I’ve wanted to do that also. Also, it’s not always a bad thing to give a box of food. It can be helpful.

However . . . I’m after the sick symbiotic relationship that can pervert good intentions and take an act of mercy and turn it into something hurtful. The sort of thing that has 10,000 people show up at the Richmond Convention Center for a Thanksgiving meal every year. The sort of short term missions which stops at giving a box of food, giving a fish. No doubt, some of them wouldn’t eat if there was no meal being served by local charities at the Convention Center today. Still, because of Lupton’s words, I wonder how many of them forgo doing for themselves because there is a free meal to be had. Along with the food boxes we need folk living among those they intend to serve and learning what the gifts are, what ways we can partner with our new neighbors to improve the economy of the neighborhood and create jobs.

As Lupton says, this isn’t a one weekend project. It’s a 10 year plan. You have to invest in the long game. I agree with Lupton and Dr. Moyo (Dead Aid, 2009) that this is the better answer to serving a community. The act that prompted this is a completely benign donation of a box of food to my neighbor. He needs it. He needed a fish. He knows how to fish but lately has had trouble fishing. The sort of longer term project of finding a more stable career for him will happen. But today, a box of food is about right. It’s not an “or”. It’s not give a fish or teach to fish. It’s go fishing and sometimes, give a fish because the fish in the river chose not to be caught. For Lupton, it’s work with the neighbors on buying the pond. My neighbor and I will keep going on the 10 year plan to make a difference here. And probably, he’ll get more donated food. That makes this an “and” instead of a false dichotomy of whether to give a fish or not.

That’s what I said last year. I came home from my driving job last December. I started my job search drill. I had a little money saved. I applied for Unemployment as per usual. Things looked difficult but I’d been through worse. Then my former employer said to the Employment Development Department that I’d been let go for malfeasance. Now, my usual source of income while I looked for work was gone. I had all the bills that come with living in a home and no income. Ruh roh.

It’s been scarier. It has been a scary couple months. My church stepped up and paid my bills for the last couple months. I found a friend whose car broke down and I’ve been giving him rides to work for gas money. I made it. In December I made noise about continuing the Dave Ramsey thing. Today, I have a few dollars cash to spend, I’ve started paying my pledge to the church for 2016, and set aside some cash in an envelope for an emergency fund. This is a break in pattern for me. My usual practice is to indulge in some sort of FUB spending and cry louder about how scary my finances are.

While on the road and making all that money I got to watch my life with double the money. Yes, I tried to do the right thing. At one point I had almost two grand in my money market checking account. Then I relapsed. I bought a printer. That was the first thing. Then the October trip home where I flew my son to Richmond and bought more stuff I’d wanted. All those fine words about living poor when I’m doing well became bumpkiss. I have more cash in the house than in the bank.

Some twelve step cliché’s: it works when you work it. Nothing changes if nothing changes. One day at a time. I have a spending problem, not a revenue problem. Like many addicts, I am really good at words. I promise a lot. The measure of my words is how I deliver on what I say. It’s 10:43am. I haven’t been out of the house to spend money. I still have the cash I’ve set aside. It’s been a couple weeks since I’ve spent money FUB-ishly. One day at a time.

The key takeaways I got from Lupton a year on are that we should focus on funding gifts instead of needs, that we should think in terms of the long game, part of any investment is visible progress on the part of our clients on clearing up their hurts, habits and hangups, and it has to be driven by the client, not by us. Another twelve step thing: we can’t help those who haven’t admitted being powerless. Ouch. Mea culpa. 10:47am. So far, so good.

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