Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Poop Fire, Ned Flanders, and Me

Ezekiel was a prophet during a captivity of Israel. Many of his messages amounted to what we might call 'street theater'.  Sometimes he wouldn't say a thing.  He just did what he was led to do.  Now there's an idea.

If you will, take a minute and read Ezekiel 4:9-15.
I have daydreamed about the Sunday morning when I lay on the floor and just make Ezekiel bread; no sermon - just make the bread and lay there.  That's what Ezekiel did.

By the way, notice the fuel source.  At first the bread was to be baked, '…with dung that cometh out of man, in their sight.'  This can mean a couple of things.  To this day, dung is used as a fuel source.  After it's dry it burns slow and fairly hot, giving off very little smoke.  Don't ask me how I know this.  So, no surprise that dung is the fuel.   BUT (no pun intended) this at the least also means the people knew the prophet was using human dung for fuel.  There's an outside chance it has a toe-curling intensive meaning.
Ezekiel goes to bat for the crowd and the Lord lowers the bar.  Cow's dung is ok too.  Thank goodness.  There's got to be some symbolism there, huh?  I wonder what our fuel source might be if a prophet were to give this type of message today.  Imagine bread baked over a pile of porno-filled thumb drives or a stack of divorce-court records. Not that a polite purpose-driven pastor in today's America would ever do such a thing.  Doing so might, gasp, lower the numbers!!

But I digress, sort of.
Remember, Israel was in captivity.  This is one of the darkest times in their Old Testament history.  Can't Ezekiel see the people need encouragement and a happy face on Sunday morning?  How dare he sit there and make bread!  Where's the uplifting message!?  Where's the neck-hugging and joking?  What about the seekers!  Yet, in those dark times, the Lord commanded him to lay there and make poop-fire bread.

Here's where Ned Flanders comes in.  He's an effective caricature of what many people think of as 'that' neighbor of theirs who goes to church all the time.  Popular notions come from somewhere (so do stereotypes, but that's a different blog entry altogether).
Consider Matthew 11:16-19.  Jesus draws attention to the fact that he and John the Baptist were two different individuals, like no-duh, really?!  John stayed by himself, wore weird clothes (the uncle with the really, really wide ties), ate strange food, and didn't touch a drop.  For his efforts people said he had a devil.   Jesus, on the other hand, wore clothes that didn't stand out, went to the parties and often stayed in town.  People called him a fatty and a drunkard.  The wonderful thing is that neither man worried much about all that.

Right about now I'm wondering how many faithful followers are trying to fit into a mold they were never intended to fill.  Like, maybe there are a few Ezekiels out there who won't do the bread thing because it doesn't fit what they think everybody else would have of them?
Thing is, people are going to talk no matter what.  The only thing I control is whether or not they're telling the truth.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Day before Thanksgiving?

It is foggy this morning.  The trees are drippy.  Visibility is down to a third.  The neighbor just closed his car door.  It's easy to put on a jacket and just be, in the fog.  It helps to be off work.  I don't have to go to town today, and that' a glorious thing.

Back inside, the furnace and the coffee maker do their parts.  I have the house to myself and it is quiet.  It gives me time to write.  Today I'm going to explain a little about why I like Thanksgiving better than Christmas and Easter.  You might not agree.  That's ok.
Jesus never tells us to commemorate the day of His birth.  I'm talking Christmas here.  The apostles never did, nor the early churches.  And if they did, my guess is their commemoration would resemble very little of how we do it.  Greed, coveting, and debt are three things believers are to avoid.  Christ-mass shopping indeed.  If memory serves, we're not supposed to lie to our children either.  Just saying.     

Then there's Easter.
Strange but true party conversation:  the word 'Easter' appears in some Bible translations one time only.  The thing is, the King-James translators didn't want to tork-off the Catholics any more than necessary so they left the word in.  It literally means Passover and Herod didn't want to tork-off the local Jews by killing people on the Passover.  Eggs and bunnies and corn-sugar and chocolate?  I won't bore you with the pagan roots and symbolism inherent in all that.  Look it up.

So, after two slaps on the over-inflated American emotion-driven religious complex I better insert some platitudes.  Yes, one must remember the true purposes for the holidays.  Jesus is the reason for the season.  Easter is about the resurrection.  So on, and so forth…
Here's some scripture:

Matthew 15:8 - This people drawth nigh unto me with their mouths, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.  (9) But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

Colossians 2:6 - As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: (7) Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.  (8) Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.

Thanksgiving Day is not mandated in scripture, unless you're Jewish.  In scripture we are told to be thankful on a daily basis, and not for just one day a year.  Nor are we to be gluttons.  Pray for me because I'm not planning on wearing a belt tomorrow.  The portrayals of Thanksgiving dinners on those zany, whacky, tee-vee shows is also taking a toll.  And the marketing concept of Black Friday is closing in like a shadow that darkens our understanding.  Yet the intent of the holiday remains.  I do not see it as entirely overwhelmed.
The word is not corrupt:  thanksgiving.  It implies grace and an acknowledgement of goodness.  Polite and grateful people still say thanks when done a kindness.  In our country, we have more to be thankful for than the majority of the people on this planet for the majority of the planet's history.  That's saying quite a bit.
I'm thankful this morning for my quiet, foggy day at home.  Tomorrow will bring new blessings.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Darryl and Jill's Geopolitical Conundrum

Darryl made a machine that created world peace.  But, Jill wasn’t impressed so he dismantled it and rebuilt the garage door with the spare parts.

I just made that up.  I don’t even know what Darryl looks like and I’m not sure what his relationship with Jill is, other than it’s not where Darryl wants it to be.  I don’t know how old they are.
But this whole writing thing, the creation of stories with characters, calls attention to the concept of motivation.   Darryl created a wonderful and much needed device.  The unstated reason he created the machine was to impress Jill.  Jill didn’t appreciate the effort or the end result.  Darryl became discouraged and wasted the opportunity.
Motivation and discouragement… hmmm.    Is it safe to say our motivations can become, how shall I put this delicately, twisted?  And are we a bit too quick with the criticisms?  Yes, and yes.  Do we even stop to consider that sometimes we’re peeing on someone’s shoes and don’t even realize it?  Darryl wants Jill and Jill wants… well, I don’t know yet.  But whatever it is, it’s small, especially when compared to world peace.
Problem is, the ends do not always justify the means.  That’s pragmatism; git-r-done and self-instant gratification all rolled into one.  What will Darryl try next?  Maybe, he thinks, she wants a great and terrible war machine.  Is he overlooking the fact that Jill doesn’t like his teeth and the way he always smells like bacon and how she will never be attracted to him?  See, that’s called delusion and he’s wasting his talents and life on lesser desires.
I suppose, as a writer, I could contrive something – that invention Darryl is missing.  But then, that would make Jill a very shallow woman.  That would mean she wants the thing Darryl creates more than Darryl.  And if you have to have some thing before someone is interested, that’s materialism at its finest.
The heart wants what the heart wants, and all that.  We see that with both Darryl and Jill.  They are shallow people.

The General wanted some sex.  The autobiographer wanted some classified information.  The President wanted to cover up his malfeasance about things so sinister that if I knew them I would have night terrors.  Meanwhile, the world goes without peace.
I did not make that up.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Another day in Gomorrah

So there I was, gazing deep in my belly-button, trying to figure out what I thought of recent developments.  Then I remembered it’s already the middle of November and I haven’t given much time to this here blog.
Here’s a quote from John Adams (one of those founding father guys):
“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
There are about a gazajillion other similar quotes by other signers of the Constitution.  No need to comment.  We’re living this right now.