Thursday, August 23, 2007

Going Retro

Yeah, what does motivate us to "minister to" those people on "the other side of the tracks"? If you ask me, humans have a lot of pride. I read a quote recently that, "If Jesus were on earth you'd find him in a gay bar in San Francisco. He'd be working with people suffering from AIDS. These people are the new lepers. If you want to find out where Jesus would be hanging out it'll always be with the lepers."

If that's true then I must be a leper because He hangs out with me and I know that He hangs out with several of my friends and they still have all of their body parts intact. It seems like those who make a religion out of social causes like to put the "Jesus-stamp-of-approval" on what they are doing because it makes them seem more spiritually mature or aware. No doubt many of them care deeply, as do I, about people who are suffering. I believe wholeheartedly in caring for others, for sure, but what is our motivation when we help the "lepers" of society?

Jesus did not, in fact, "always" hang out with the lepers. He actually spent much of His time with a motley band of 12 men. He also hung out with every type of person imaginable: blue-collar stiffs, federal workers, desperate housewives, religious leaders and religious nut-balls, military men, average Joes, his family, the wealthy elite, social climbers, the handicapped, the "mentally" ill, and the terminally ill; three groups of people who were usually homeless. He was not exclusive about who He spent time with. Jesus hung out with anyone who wanted to hang out with Him. If someone indicated that they didn't want to spend their time with Him then He politely went on His way. He wasn't out to peddle himself to people. He also wasn't trying to make Himself look better by hanging out with all these people.

We forget this but we are all broken. There isn't a soul out there who does not have some level of brokenness. If Jesus is the standard and being like Him is the standard, I am here to tell you that none of us can ever reach that standard. We might as well try to fly to the moon. Even if we practice jumping all day long we will never build up enough muscle to get ourselves up there. If we climb the tallest building we are still millions of miles away. A few people get on board airplanes and claim to be pretty close but they haven't even broken the earth's atmosphere. So is my only option is to go to Kennedy and steal a space shuttle? The problem is, I would need millions of dollars to pay the highly-skilled burglers who would do the job for me and I still wouldn't have a clue how to fly the darn thing. I'm too old to be chosen for the NASA program - not that I would have ever been chosen to begin with -
I don't possess the right set of skills to "get in". There is just no getting me on the moon.

Even if I do hang out with the "lepers", it ain't gonna make me any more perfect. (And, oh, how they love being referred to as "the lepers"!!!?)
The only way that I can achieve the standard is to allow God to take my broken self and adopt me into His family and then to see me forevermore as one of His own. There is no ladder to climb or set of rules to follow perfectly. There is no hiding out in some monastery like a coward, trying to avoid the evils of this world so that I can attain more perfection. Perfection is such a futile goal because it is absolutely not possible by any of the standards out there.

The amazing thing is that God sees me as if I am on the moon not as if I am still gravity-bound by earth. There is a tremendous amount of mystery in that for me; I don't comprehend it but it does give me a peace and sense of reassurance that I cannot duplicate through any of my own notions of "spiritual disciplines". No matter how many disciplines I were to practice it would not get me to the moon and that is where I wish to be when it comes to God. I am just going to trust Him on this one even though it sounds totally nuts. (See Ephesians for further insight)

I always thought moon boots were cool anyway.
And what about the Moonwalk, baby? Way cool.
Guess I am going retro.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Official Statement

That's all I have to say.

Monday, August 6, 2007

People-People, Part Deux

My computer has been away for a couple weeks so I have not been writing or checking email much.

I meant to write "People-People, Part Deux" awhile ago but it turned out that I didn't get a chance to. Recent adventures, while rife with humor, gave me pause for thought...

The other night my friends "Molly" and "Jill" had a hankering to go sing Karaoke. In our two-horse town there are only a couple places to do this: in the Bar/Lounge of one of the hotels and at this - shall we say - quaint little dive where I fully spent the whole two hours expecting a bar-fight to erupt at any moment. Not to mention that "Jill's" observation of the bar-folk was that they all seemed to have some sort of nervous system disorder due to the way they were dancing.

How does this relate to engaging in community, you ask? Let me tell you. When we walked into the dive, my pal "Molly" felt right at home. "Jill" did not necessarily feel quite so much at home but she was friendly and down-to-earth nonetheless - it also helped that some of her family reunions resembled the crowd we were mingling amongst. And then there was me - the designated driver who did not have any of the advantages of alcohol to carry me through. I was hooked at the hip to "Jill" and let me just say that I was as stiff as a board. It was not helping that we were being flanked by short, googly-eyed guy who was making lewd references to sex, something about nipple-twisting, and Lynyrd Skynyrd (the band). It was a good thing his speech was too slurred for us to understand the full scope of his hopes for the evening. We finally managed to elude him - only to later find ourselves faced with gangly tattoo guy whose lewd references included mention to genital size as well as a high level of f-word usage as an attempt to impress us with his sexual prowess and wishes for the near future with either of us. I could not have imagined a night of ecstasy with either of these hapless fellows even if I had imbibed upon an entire bottle of any sort of alcoholic beverage. It is beyond my creative powers to envision such a thing.

It was actually a blessed relief to sit and chat with Kyle - the young fellow who first introduced us to the quaint dive. At least all he did was show me pictures of his three boys and then tried to give me his phone number to which I kindly demurred that I was married, and thus he said that he was sorry for trying to give me his number and that he had been married but that his ex-wife was a "f-ing, cheating whore *sorry* but she cheated on me." All this, and he could not have more than 23 years old. Poor guy.

I realized something about myself though, and it is that I am a snob. When I described my impression of the place I used some unfavorable words about a certain neighborhood, I am ashamed to say, and it's made me realize that no amount of saying that I have nothing against those people is true if I can say something like that. It's like when people make references to those people who live "on the other side of the tracks". I don't want to be someone who refers to others in a derogatory manner and these were the words that came to me at the realization of my snobbery:

"No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thorn bushes, or grapes from briers. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks."

You can probably guess who said those words. (Jesus, in Luke 6:43-45) I can't deny the truth of those words. That was the overflow of my heart and it was contempt. Granted, most of my contempt was aimed at being treated like a piece of meat which is something that I utterly despise; I cannot stand the user/consumer approach when it comes to sex. My contempt would be just as great for a Manhattan-ite, or a Londoner, or any guy, anywhere, treating me like a conquest. On the other hand, I was at a bar at 1:30 in the morning amongst a bunch of people so blubbering drunk that the bartender was refusing to serve some of them drinks. In other words, if I actually expect to be treated like the lady that I consider myself to be when in that scenario then I am completely out of my gourd.

The whole thing made me realize that it is absolutely essential to separate the behavior from the person. Yes people are responsible for their choices; however, a person's worth is not based upon their behavior. It is a broken person who pursues others in such a way as to not even care who they are but to only want sex from them. It's a broken person who tells you more than once how "f-ed up" he was as a kid and how much trouble he got into, and who is now alone, without much support as the father of three small children. I don't need to go on but I can say that I saw a lot of loneliness and misplaced longing in the eyes of some of those people.

We are all broken at some level; we are each in different places as far as healing and restoration go. Some people are only in for more brokenness due to their inability to make better choices. I found out that I don't want to engage in community with someone who is that broken because I know that I can't trust that person. Even if there is prudence in that, it still shouldn't stop me from behaving in a compassionate manner,at the very least, instead of behaving like a snob.

It would also help not to go to bars at 1:30 AM when people are at their worst but are thinking it is their best.