Ranchero Music, and the Other Sounds of Beautiful Love

I am in an interesting position in my life. I’m currently processing my second failed marriage while living in a parsonage of the church my father is the pastor of in a small fishing village in remote Alaska. I know, I know, I have totally lived up to my moniker in my high school year book: “Least Likely to Succeed.” Now, while I came of age right outside of NYC, and have spent almost my entire life in major urban areas, I can say this about Alaskan village life: This shit ain’t for me. Now, I do not in any way judge anyone who has made a life here and finds contentment here. If this I your bag, that’s great. It’s just not mine. I will not spend time railing on and on about what I hate about it. It’s just not for me.

But, within this time of misery, I am truly grateful to have a family that is always willing to help me out. This house is filled with three things: Sarcasm, intense neurosis, and undying obsessional love/devotion to family. And that is what I’d like to talk about today.

My Brother-In-Law, who I may actually love and LIKE more the sister he is married to, spent a few months in town this summer. He is an amazing massage therapist, and he could legitimately move here and make a ton of money as he’s the only dude in town. Not just that, but he’s freaking great at it. While he was here, he and I would go down to a harbor and enjoy a pipe. Tobacco pipe, nothing green. Well, this town gets a lot of migrant workers during the summer working in the canneries. Many of them from Latin America. Now, this is total exploitation of a minority group that is accepted by the community, but hey, I say I wasn’t going to air grievances, so I won’t go into the need for cheap slave-wage labor to power our economy built on cheap products…

Anyway, I always digress. My brother and I were sitting there talking about the difference between Existential, and Cosmic Nihilism (we’re huge Rick and Morty fans, give us a break), and a group of Latin Americans pulled up next to us, and they were blasting their rancho music.

My Brother, hitherto called “Jeffery” grew up in the Coachella Valley in California. I lived in a suburb of L.A. for 6 years. We are both very familiar with the sounds of this style of music. As the tuba belted a bass line that would put some R&B bass players to same, Jeffery and I looked at each other and smiled,  both of us remembering the sounds of years gone by.

“I don’t know what it is,” Jeffrey said, “but there is something immensely soothing about this style of music.”

“It’s familiar, sir.” I reply without having to think about it. I didn’t have to ponder because I was thinking the same thing as him. “It’s a sound of home. It kind of gives you the hope that even amidst the chaos of life, everything is going to be alright.”

“Dude, that’s, like, deeply beautiful.” Jeffery responded.

I swear we were not high.

Now, what’s weird about California is the fondness with how I look back on it. I shouldn’t. My first marriage imploded their– I was left for a skinny jean wearing, Prius driving, vegan (how fucking L.A. is that?)– and I met the greatest friend I have ever had their. His name was Grady. I say was because on December 23, 2016 he was diagnosed with Stage 4 Leukemia. On December 25, 2016, on a Sunday, while sitting in a Christmas Church service, I got the news that he had died. In horrific pain, but surrounded by his family. His adopted son now an orphan as his mother, Grady’s wife, died of a massive brain aneurism while watching TV with the family. (On a side note, we should start getting donations to help pay for the massive therapy this kid is going to need).

Anyway, time does not allow, and the internet does not possess enough space for me to tell of the bond I had with Grady and what we went through as men together. First with the lose of his wife, then with the lose of mine. His lose was way more horrifying, for sure.

I bring him up, because I should not look at my time in California in my twenties with fondness. It was a lot of pain, and the one good thing I had still there was taken by the beast known as “Cancer”. Yet I still do. Every time. Every time I hear Ranchero music, I feel the warmth of that sun. And I feel the warmth of that friendship. Even if with the joy of the love I had with and for him, there is amazing sadness. The sadness is totally worth feeling when I remember that amazing friend.

And that brings me to family, and the beautiful sounds of Ranchero music. You see, like California, I have family. Sometimes these people are infuriating. Sometimes they make no sense to me. Sometimes I see their faults and it’s a stabbing look at how much I’m just as totally fucked in the head. Like, seriously. You have no idea. But you know what? Just like the words of the Ranchero music are a mystery to me, but it fills me with so much joy that the sadness is worth it, so to my family, who blow my mind away with anger sometimes, are totally worth being around when things are shit. Because, just like Grady was to me, no matter how obstinate and obtuse I am, no matter how much property damage I cause, no matter how many dishes I leave in the sink, no matter how many cars I total, I know that I will always be obsessionally, neurotically loved by these people. And no matter how much chaos this life throws at me, I will always be OK. They will always take the call, no matter how late. I will always have a safe place to lay down and sleep. Mom will always cook me a meal if I’m hungry. Dad will always encourage me to greatness.

Even if our communication styles are completely different and we need to walk away sometimes.

All of this will always be true.

Well, until Mom dies. Then all bets are off…

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Data Vs. Narrative: This Is What Happens When The Metas Collide

I called you today.

It was a need to thing not a want to thing.

This sums up being an adult:

Doing what’s needed not wanted.

I have changed your contact info three times now.

Each time I do I use your name.

Your actual name.

Nothing sarcastic.

Nothing pithy.

Just your first name.

I don’t even know what name you’re using now.

Yours or mine?

No one tells me these things.

You didn’t call back.

Why would you, right?

But the text I got from you made my heart fall to my balls.

From, “Wifey” it said.

A second of joy flooded every gland in my system.

Then sickness.

Then anger.

Then a little but of lingering sadness.

Why couldn’t it just say your goddamn name?

I’ve changed it three fucking times now.

But somewhere deep in the meta-data

Somewhere where I can’t fucking find it,

Your title remains.

It must be changed.

It must be eliminated, actually.

Putting an, “ex” there is just me taunting myself.

Taunting me that you care enough for the later part of the title.

Or that I wasn’t just a ticket out of what you thought was a problem of loneliness.

Can I find the metadata that needs to be changed?

Yeah, most likely in 37 seconds.

But, that metadata of misery is serving its purpose.

The meta in the data is just there to show the that the meta in my narrative will never change.

It will always be a narrative of hard work.

A meta of dealing with bad shit until the shit is done dealing with me.

What changes if I manipulate the meta data?

Instead of the data and the narrative being one.

Instead of the harmony of the pronouncement that relationships aren’t my bag

The meta data will be against the meta narrative

When metas battle only lies remain in the end.

Names, titles, pictures.

What are these things?

Empty words.

Empty images.

Empty symbols.

All that will remain.

No matter who the phone claims it is,

All I will see is not the name/title/picture.

All I will see is:

a visual representation of my failure to maintain a relationship.

A four year lie that love is forever.

That we do actually engage with the words sickness and health.

and the reality that for better or for worse really means until better comes along.

Or until it’s easier to not have to work at it.

You say you’re alone.

All I’ll see when the name/title/picture pops up is:

Someone who would rather be isolated and alone than deal with me.

Why even change the metadata?

The meta narrative will always be the same.

Why All Republican-Protestant-Evangelical-Conservatives Should want Pot to be Legal– A Discourse

Disclaimer: let me first say that I do not claim any of the identities in this title. HOWEVER, my father is all of those things. I love him dearly, so this isn’t an insult to him in any way. The song Sweet Home Alabama, and Okie From Muskogee were written and sang by people who disagreed with the politics they were singing about, but loved the people in their lives that did think like that so much that they wanted to give us their point of view. This following treatise is my attempt to give a cogent truly Libertarian argument using the conservative definitions. I will let you know what are actual beliefs of mine, and what aren’t just so my point can be made clear. Here we go:

If you ask me, and since I’m writing this, I’m assuming you are, most people that claim the title of Libertarian are really just Republican Conservatives that want no taxes, but they truly don’t want no government intrusion in their lives, or the lives of others. So, when us Libertarians say things like, we believe in getting rid of ICE, and initiating easy, open borders they get pissed and say that we are being overrun by Liberal Democrats. This is bullshit identity politics at its worst. “You disagree with me, therefore I’m going to throw the biggest insult I can at you!” The problem isn’t that the Libertarian view is Liberal or Democrat, but rather that, when the democrats agree with us, we just think it’s awfully Libertarian of them. What is also funny is that Libertarians want to abolish the EPA, FDA, DOE, etc. That is definitely NOT “Liberal Democrat.”

Anyway, I digress. Let’s talk about weed. Now, as a true libertarian, I believe in the legalization of all drugs for recreational use. I also believe that if you want to use them, you don’t get to act like an idiot, be dangerous, rob liquor stores, etc. Also, if you want to do them, don’t come crying to us for help when your brain is fried, and your unemployable and broke. Your decisions are your decisions– own them. Is this brutal? Maybe. But it’ll take one generation of chaos to bring us order. As opposed to now, where there is the appearance of order, but there really isn’t. But again, as I’m sure I’ll be doing a lot on this post, I digress.

I’m going to only argue for the case of Marijuana here as it is the only recreationally legal drug there is at the moment in Alaska where I am. In the Town I’m in, Cordova, every new business needs to get the towns permission via a majority vote if they want to open a new business. What I’m not going to do is go into how Goddamn un-American it is that people can vote you out of owning your own business. I’m NOT going to rant about that, no matter how much I want to. OMGosh it pisses me off so much! Digressions, digressions, digressions. Recently there was a group of people that wanted to build a dispensary in town. This was being angrily opposed by the religious moral right in this town. You know, the conservatives that don’t want the government to tell them how to express their religious views, but are totally ok when the government tells pagans how they should live. You know. Those people. There were two arguments against it by the hypocrites, I mean republican Christians, that I’d like to address, and prove, from a control-your-behavior-republican-theocracy POV are bad arguments. Let’s go.

First: Weed is bad! We don’t want to give people easy access to it. This is a royal fucked argument on so many levels. Firstly, weed is not any worse than the alcohol that is consumed at dinner, or the hydrocodone that I know several ministers in this town take like candy. When that is addressed, and the fact that those pills are literally heroine, the excuse as to why those drugs are ok is because some person with MD at the end of his/her name that is wearing a long white coat said it was ok. My father is a minister here and when I asked if mom was to die, and you were having prostate problems and the doctor said that your abstinence was causing problems, and that solution was to jerk one off a few times a day, would my dad comply? Now, two things: one, my father wouldn’t do that, because just because a person with MD at the end of their name who’s wearing a long white coat says something is OK, doesn’t mean it is (this is not a case against masturbation, just going by my father’s beliefs). TWO, I know that situation is totally absurd, it’s a hyperbolic parable. Jesus!

Also, in regards to this first argument against pot shops, I’d argue that the control-your-behavior-republican-theocracy should LOVE the idea that all pot sales are in one location. If a pot shop is set up we will know: who is going in. Who is coming out. What is going in. What is going out. Also the age of the people going in As it stands right now, weed is easier to score than booze if your underage. Why, because we don’t know who is selling, where they are selling, what they are selling, etc. I’m not saying that just because a pot shop is set up that there won’t be any more underage sales. That’s naïve, and stupid. What I am saying is that, with the shop we’ll see the majority of buyers using the shop, and the authorities can spend their time finding the illegal sales. Literally, setting up the pot shop helps the control-your-behavior-republican-theocracy keeps tabs on the pagans. And, as we who have been attending church our whole lives know as Gospel truth, there is no one else on this planet that wants to keep track of people’s outward sins like control-your-behavior-republican-theocracy church goers. The pot shop should thrill them.

The second main argument is as follows: since weed is against federal law, no banks can take the money from the pot shop as a deposit. This seems to be a coup-de-grace. But, it’s totally not. One, if that is the law, that’s a stupid law on fundamental levels. The government itself should be against this law. What this tells me is that if a drug dealer wants to deposit his money in the bank, therefore making his income tractable for tax purposes, he is literally told not to. This is dumb why? From a purely fiscal stand-point, it’s stupid. Not letting them deposit their money is a sure fire way for tax evasion. As Capone proved, tax evasion will get caught. But why make it more difficult. Let them deposit it, and put the money back on the grid! Also, money that doesn’t get put into banks doesn’t circulate through the overall economic system as well. Plain and simple.

Also, in regards to the second reason for no pot shops, from a purely control-your-behavior-republican-theocracy point of view: just because something is federal law doesn’t mean it’s just. Ask any control-your-behavior-republican-theocracy church goer if, given the choice between having to do federally legal gay marriages at their churches, or the government shutting them down, by way of federal law, they’d shut down. Because the legality of a thing doesn’t equate to the righteousness of the thing. Again, like the MD/Masturbation argument, there is a lot of absurdity in the previous scenario which is meant as a hyperbolic parable.

Anyway, I love my control-your-behavior-republican-theocracy parents. It sounds like I’m taking pot shots. I’m not. Well, not consciously. I am pointing out inconsistencies in their arguments and using absurdity to do it. The term “Conservative” has been co-opted by the Republican Neo-con machine. The founders of that movement would not be using that term for themselves today, and, I don’t believe, that they’d be using the Elephant as a bed fellow either. Conservatives seem to only believe in liberty when it suits their narrative. I believe in it more so when it doesn’t suit my narrative. I’ve never done a non prescription drug in my life. My first sip of any kind of alcohol (that wasn’t cough syrup), was when I was 29. But, my personal feelings on these matters shouldn’t be used by me as a way to dictate someone else’s life. I also read the Bible for several hours a day. But I have no political opinions based on that book. They all come from a constitutional outlook. The ten commandments say don’t murder and don’t steal. I believe both of those actions should be illegal. Why? Because the 2,000 year old book of fantasies that I read every day says so? No, because the constitution says all people have a right to life and property. Murder and theft violate those. This was the conservative position until Bush 2. Now, Christians engage in their version of identity politics, which I hate on a fundamental level.

Alas, I’m exhausted. I’ve been writing in some form or another for the last 19 hours. Mania with OCPD is insanely productive, but, insanely exhausting.

Mitchell and Jacoby: A Tale of Heaven and Hell

    Mitchell was born and raised in a very devout Protestant Evangelical home. He went on to graduate high school with honors without a hint of rebellion. He then went and got a bachelor’s degree in business. Then, to please his parents and his God, he got a Master’s of Divinity from a very conservative, well respected Seminary in the heartland of America.

    Jacoby was a classmate of Mitchell’s in high school. He was raised by a strict mormon family. Unlike one of his best friends, Mitchell, Jacoby rebelled hard starting in junior high, and it continued well past high school. Hs drinking and drug use got so bad, he almost flunked out of college. But he barely graduated. After college, his demos kept him from keeping a job very long, and he bounced from job to job and from relationship to relationship.

    Finally, now in his 30’s, Jacoby received his 5th DUI, and he spent some time in prison– his lawyer had run out of tricks. He had to pay for his crimes.

    In prison, Jacoby had a crash course in sobriety. When he got clean, he decided to jump back into the religion of his youth, and he again joined the Mormon church.

    After 18 months in prison, Jacoby got out and started working several jobs. One of the reasons why was to pay back his debts to society, and the other because it kept him out of trouble. Every spare moment of his time was spent aiding the poor, or reaching out to those in prison.

    Several years later, now 37 years old, Jacoby heard of a new business firm opening in town, and he decided to apply. He was overjoyed when he was called for an interview.

    To his surprise, he bumped into his old friend Mitchell who was also applying for a position at the firm. They both recognized each other instantly when they saw each other in the waiting room. They hit it off and decided to meet for coffee the following wednesday afternoon at lunch.

    They both received offers of employment at the firm, and were working in the same department. They decided not to make the coffee lunch a one time thing, and met every Wednesday at lunch for coffee. At these lunches, Mitchell decided he was going to use the time to convince Jacoby of the error of his ways, bring him out of Mormonism, and bring him to Orthodox Christian beliefs. This, to Mitchell’s dismay, never happened. But Jacoby never got angry at Mitchell. Nor did he ever try to convert him. Jacoby truly felt blessed to have a friend that cared about him enough to share his concerns.

    This continued on for years. On the year of his fortieth birthday, Jacoby was offered a huge promotion as a thank you for his hard work and dedication that he had shown all those years. But this promotion would take all of his free time away, and he would no longer be able to serve the poor. He felt like he couldn’t do this, so, turning down financially security for a job he’d be excellent at, Jacoby choose to live humbly, and the promotion went to the Companies second choice, Mitchell. Because of the demands on his time, and, more importantly, the policy from the Company that said fraternization with those below him was against the rules, Mitchell had to stop meeting his friend for coffee.

    Mitchell, now blessed with way more money than he needed, was abe to tithe 20% of his income to his local church. At this church he served as the head deacon. He was also in charge of Sunday school as a whole, and taught the high school kids. His lessons were full of high theology and biblical understanding and the glories of Orthodoxy. His church held theology and bible memorization contests with surrounding churches, and Mitchell’s kids won every time for dozens of years.

    In stark contrast, Jacoby, who spent all of his time ministering to the homeless, and tutoring for free in an underprivileged neighborhood, barely had any time to attend his churches meetings, and had even less money to tithe to the LDS church, so he rarely did.

    One day, while helping a prostitute Jacoby had met in a shelter out of a terrible living situation, Jacoby was shot by her pimp, and he died en route to the hospital. His family had no money, so the Company held a small funeral. His old, frail parents wept and thanked their God, that their son had come back to the faith and refound his salvation with the LDS church. For some reason, even though he didn’t want to, Mitchell didn’t preach. He just kept his head down,and left as soon as the service was over.

    The next day, overcome with grief that he hadn’t preached the true gospel, Mitchell went to the house of Jacoby’s parents, and tried to convince them to turn from their heresy, unless they join their son in eternal conscious torment for an eternity in Hell. They, less than politely, rejected his offer of true salvation.

    The following Sunday, Mitchell announced to his church that he was starting “Jacoby Ministres.” He was never again not going to preach the true gospel to the lost. He felt guilty that he hadn’t converted his friend, who was not burning for eternity, and the only reason he couldn’t convince the parents of his friend was because he didn’t get them at the funeral.

    He and his wife launched the ministry the next Saturday. Every week for the rest of their lives they preached on busy city streets. Eventually their kids, grandkids, and great grandkids joined them. All of them becoming great preaching evangelists. They also followed Mitchell’s lead as teachers of Orthodoxy in Sunday school.

    Mitchell lived until the age of 93. He died peacefully in his sleep, surrounded by friends, family, people he taught, and people his ministry had gotten saved. The funeral was enormous, and they were all overjoyed that he was now with the Father in Glory.

   One thousand years later the Lord returned and woke up everyone from their soul sleep. He, the great judge, started His judgment. The last two people in line were Jacoby and Mitchell. Jacoby, now knowing that his concept of God was completely wrong, and his friend was correct, awaited judgement mortified. Everyone that he loved from his tradition had been sentenced to the Lake. He knew what was coming.

    “Lord,” Jacoby said as he approached the throne, “I now that I was wrong about You, and that, combined with my rebellious youth have made me guilty. I will save you the trouble. I will go.” Jacoby turned and headed towards the fire, but with every step he took towards it, the Lake seemed to get farther and farther away. A gentle, loving warmth grabbed his shoulder and lovingly turned him around. As he was turning, Jacoby’s body started to glow. All bodily pain disappeared, and he received a perfected, transfigured body.

    “Jacoby, my friend,” the Lord said with a loving, compassionate smile on his face, “you have diligently search for me your whole life. Even in your years of rebellion, you had a compassionate heart. Even though your answers to the questions about me where wrong, you were one hundred percent in love with me. You were my friend. Welcome to my home.” With that Jesus led Jacoby into eternity.

    When the Lord returned from ushering Jacoby into the new Earth, He approached a shocked, but utterly confident Mitchell. “Man, is this a merciful Lord or what” the thought. “If he allows such a one as Jacoby in, I have only a short wait until I get my crown.”

    The Lord approached Mitchell. He stopped in front of him and looked closer at him than He had at anyone else. There was a faint look of familiarity about Mitchell that Christ couldn’t quite place. After what seemed like an eternity to Mitchell,the Lord finally spoke up. “My friend, I truly do not know who you are. I feel like I should, but I just don’t. I’m sorry to say this, but you can not join Us. Please proceed that way.” Jesus raised His arm and pointed to the Lake.

    “What,” an indignant Mitchell screamed. “How could you let a cultish pagan in with You, but not me? My ministry converted more people to Orthodox thinking than any other ministry in my city!”

     “Mitchell. Friend,” Jesus said patiently. “Knowing the answers means nothing without living the answers. The only person I wanted you to convert was your friend Jacoby. But you abandoned him for what? Financial security? I’m sorry, friend, but you did give your sacrifices. But our friend Jacoby gave mercy. Now, you must leave.”

    Against his will, Mitchell was pulled into the Lake. The unquenchable flames brought utter anguish to Mitchell, and he felt the full weight of his sins crushing him. He wept, he hissed, and cried in bitter anger towards Jacoby, God, and himself.

    After a while, as those whose punishments were over and the punishment for sins was paid, the population of the Lake slowly started to dwindle. Mitchell, who mercifully didn’t suffer as long as others seemed to know his time was coming to an end. He looked out at the New Earth and cried out to his friend Jacoby. Jacoby heard and looked. As he did he saw his friend Mitchell’s body turn to ash, and his soul float above the pile. A strong wind blew– it scattered the ashes and his soul dissipated. Mitchell was gone. He was totally annihilated.

    Jacoby turned to the Lord and wept bitterly at the eternal destruction of his friend. The Lord, filled with compassion, bent down and wiped away all of Jacoby’s tears– the last tears he ever shed.

 

____________________________________________________________________________

 

The Point:

In the three years that the Lord Jesus walked this earth he told many stories. Many parables. He also asked many questions.  One of these parables, followed by a question can be found as follows:

 

“28 “What do you think? A man had two sons; and he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 And he answered, ‘I will not’; but afterward he repented and went. 30 And he went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the harlots believed him; and even when you saw it, you did not afterward repent and believe him” (Matthew 21: 28-32, RSV)

What do we ultimately see Jesus saying here? To find this answer we first and foremost need to discover who He was talking to. Matthew 21:23 answers the question. Jesus was approached by the chief priests and elders and His authority was questioned. He is still talking to these Chief Priests and Elders when He tells this little story, and asks His question in our passage. Why is Jesus talking to this group of people vitally significant in understanding this story? It’s because these two groups of people were, in their time and day, the ones with all of the correct answers.  But, throughout the New Testament, the correct answers play second fiddle to the correct actions. In short Orthopraxy > Orthodoxy. James tells us what the essence of true religion is (James 1:27). John tells us that the core of what God is is Love and that if we loved (and in turn ultimately believe in) this Love, we would follow His command, and live in perfect love.

What is this command (there’s only one)? What is this Perfect Love? It would be really easy to answer that with the Golden Rule of loving God and Neighbor/Enemy. But I think it’s even simpler than that! Perfect Love is: being willing to die, in any way, for your friends. I offer three verses by John that discuss this:

  1. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. John 10:11
  2. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13
  3. By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 1 John 3:16

Clearly our command is this: If we want to love, we must be willing to die. Does this mean physical death? Absolutely it does. But does is always mean physical death? Not necessarily. In the previous story, all God needed of Mitchell was to minister to Jacoby. This would have been the death of his finances. Finances are a big deal here in the West. There are many idols we may not be willing to give up for the gospel. Our Constitutional freedoms, and money. We have a worship of guns. We’d rather see our children slaughtered in school than have a heavy vetting system in place to prevent the slaughter from happening. We ignore the poor as a whole in this country, Our vets, who we say we respect by never kneeling for a national anthem, are coming home psychotic and ending up homeless en masse. Changing these things would require the death of some of our freedoms. Are we willing to love enough to do that?

Another thing that I see tying into this passage is who I chose to give salvation to in the story. I choose a Mormon in this story to be the one that Christ recognizes as a friend for a very specific reason: because their view of God and Jesus is DRASTICALLY different than Protestant Evangelical thought. While it would be easy to see the story as a hyperbole: an exaggeration to show the truth, it sadly holds more truth than it should.

Not only are we judgemental of those like the LDS, we take our fellow travelers on the Grace Train, and say, because their thoughts on God and the nature of Salvation are different, they are not believers! We do this to the Orthodox faith, and the Catholic faith. Some say that if you don’t believe our soteriology then you aren’t saved. Some say if you don’t speak in tongues, you haven’t been regenerated. This is nonsense.

Other than living in Orthopraxy > Orthodoxy, we have turned the Gospel into a set of theological beliefs one must accept in order to truly be saved. We have taken a scandalously easy yoke of repent and believe and turned it into a yoke than screams of the Law 2.0. Look at all of the things we burden new believers with. We take the joy of Grace, and add, in no particular order: Inerrancy, Penal Substitutionary Atonement, Virgin Birth, Historicity of Adam, Creation is 6 literal days, women are second class citizens, not worthy of leadership positions, full immersion in baptism or it doesn’t freaking count!, etc.

What’s funny, is that in the book of Acts, which is the only record of the Gospel being preached to unbelievers that we have, the essence of the Gospel is: Jesus wants to be your Lord. It’s a groovy choice. You should make it.

All of that other stuff is baggage, and the best way to fly is when you’ve only got a very small carry on with you.

I would encourage you, in light of the scandal that easy Grace, to shake the necessity of the baggage, and just jump on the plane traveling light. Not everyone needs to agree with you. Diversity in thought makes this life worth living.

Trumped

As I sit here eating my famous Taco Soup (well, famous to my wife, my mom, and me), I can’t help but reflect on the last few days of news coverage. Like the taco soup the news has been exceedingly spicy, and will most likely lead to me getting heart burn.

All because of two words (or one compound word depending how you want to spell it): S**thole. First off, let me express that anything taken in a soundbite can sound horrendous, and I admit that I haven’t listened to anything that man has said since being inaugurated. Actually, as a person that votes yellow (Libertarian), I try not to pay attention to either of the two main sides. They both lead to heartburn– both physically and spiritually.

But, I do have a question: have you guys seen the countries like Haiti, El Salvador, or Uganda? And I’m not talking the resort areas of these countries. You know, the places rich white people go to gt some sun. I’m talking where the real people live. They are pits of despair! S**thole, while being extremely crude, is pretty accurate. Again, it’s rude. But accurate. And in regards to what the President said regarding does anything good come from there, well, let’s look at what he, the President could have meant.

But first: we are all, every man, woman and child, imprinted with the Imago Dei. The image of God, and with that we all deserve the love, respect and dignity that God Himself gave us, and showed for us while He was hanging on the tree. I do want to say that before I continue, because it’s not going to sound like a care for a few paragraphs. I truly do, and I will finish on the high note.

But to the President. For the last year the opponents of the President have been marching in the streets wearing genitalia on their heads, and screaming about how America is, basically, a s**thole. The thing is, it’s not. It has serious issues, but the crime rate, murder rate, and corruption is nowhere near that of the countries the President disparaged. There is a reason that people flee those countries en mass to get here, and other western nations. For the most part, I like this. If you want to come here, work hard, assimilate, and become an American, that is excellent. I think Trump would agree with me on that notion. What I think he is saying however, is that people leave those ghettos behind, and instead of trying to make a new, better life, in a new, better place, they try to make this place as bad as the one they came from.

This is the crux of the issue. It also has the left-wing of the Christian community in an absolute uproar. They are scream about compassion, and love, and how Trump must be racist for saying things about those countries. The thing is The Dominican Republic is on the same island as Haiti, and has the same race of people, and the President didn’t list that country as a s**thole. Why not? Because it’s not a corrupt mess. So race obviously isn’t a factor.

One of the reasons I no longer identify as a Protestant Evangelical is because the right-wing of that group has been trying to control people’s behaviour via the ballot box for 30 years. They have gotten lazy. Instead of changing hearts and minds via making disciples, and conversion, they have given up the fight and want to use force. Controlled behaviour not changed. The left-wing accuses them of this all of the time.

And then stuff like this happens, and left-wing Christians show themselves to be just pro-force as the right-wing. They say America should be a city on a hill. A beacon of compassion. Always willing to bring in the downtrodden. And we should raise everyone’s taxes to do it! It’s super easy to be compassionate when you are using someone elses wallet. What’s hard is when you go out of your way to be compassion yourself.

Here is my rub with the left-wing Christian: you can throw Micah 6:8 out at me all you want, but that is OUR job as believers to do. Just like making disciples will lead to changed hearts and minds, and therefore changed behaviour, personal sacrifice is the name of the game when it comes to helping the poor, the widow, and the orphan.

The sermon on the mount gives us pretty exact instructions on how we are to live. Both the right and the left need to realize that it is not our job to vote in the sermon on the mount. The President has to look out for the welfare of an entire nation. It’s his or her job to make sure there is as much prosperity as possible. It is our job as Christians to sell all we have and be the agents in the society that get trampled on for the sake of the poor and the Gospel. If the President was to turn the other cheek, or go the extra mile, or give away anything that was asked for, we would no longer be a country. We would be conquered.

But what can we do in this republic (not democracy, thank God) that we live in if we are not to be voting the Sermon on the Mount in? Easy, vote to make it so our commission can be easier. It is almost impossible, and highly expensive to adopt. Vote to change that. Churches in many states are not allowed to house the homeless without expensive permits. Vote to change that. In some states it is illegal to feed the homeless. Vote to change that. Our votes should be to change the government, not to force people to live a certain way– either in the left-wing or the right-wing mindset.

Republicans– you can’t stop gay sex or people from using drugs. Stop trying to force that morality on people. Democrats– taxing income and giving it to others isn’t compassion, it’s theft.

If you have a deep conviction LIVE it, don’t force others to do so.

BTW, Taco Soup is as follows– In a crock pot add:

3 lbs of browned ground beef

2 15 ounce cans of diced tomatoes with green chilis

2 15 ounce cans of beans (your pick, I use black and kidney)

1 15 ounce can of corn (I actually use hominy for a gritty texture but start with corn)

3 packets of taco seasoning (start with 2, I like it hot)

1 Packet of Ranch seasoning

On high for three hours, or low for 6

Where Do I Get My Sustenance?

I tried out the Mennonite denomination this Sunday. There was a little homily on Psalm 61 during worship time that really blessed me. I am going to post the first half of this Psalm below and then talk about it. This is from the CSB (emphasis mine):

Psalm 61

For the choir director: on stringed instruments. Of David.

God, hear my cry;
pay attention to my prayer.
I call to you from the ends of the earth
when my heart is without strength.
Lead me to a rock that is high above me,
for you have been a refuge for me,
a strong tower in the face of the enemy.
I will dwell in your tent forever
and take refuge under the shelter of your wings.    Selah

 

In this current time in my life where I do not know where my next tank of gas is coming from, let alone rent, utilities, or car insurance, this Psalm is something that I really needed to hear. We see David in some kind of desperate need. He is calling out to Elohim to hear him. There is almost a demanding tone to his cry, “pay attention to my cry.” He’s at his wits end. He is beyond hope. His heart is tapped out.

What does the King ask for? He asks to be lead to a rock that is high above him. The bible is replete with the metaphor of YHWH being “a Rock.” So, when David is asking to be lead to a rock that is far above him, he’s asking to be lead to his God! David, a better song writer than Bob Dylan in my humble opinion, both rejoices in God, but at the same time can be depressed. Psalm 103 is about the forgiving God, David is thankful in Psalm 138, and, my personal favorite, in Psalm 13, David is completely depressed. That entire Psalm, Psalm 13, David is so depressed he wants to die. He’s crying himself to sleep! But how does this Psalm end? Does it end in hopelessness and despair? No. It ends in praise (CSB):

 But I have trusted in your faithful love;
my heart will rejoice in your deliverance.
I will sing to the Lord
because he has treated me generously.

David praises his rock. The rock that is high above him. He does this always. So whether he is in the deepest spiritual valley, or on the highest spiritual mountain, David’s Rock is always higher. This is a beautiful thing. And it gets me thinking in so many directions, but I’ll try to focus on what this homily’s main inspiration was to me.

Where do I get my sustenance? What is my Rock?

I had a job interview today. I’ve had many lately, and I haven’t gotten the position in any of them. I have begged God to make this happen for me. Begged Him for a calling. Begged and begged and begged. But this is in total opposition to my Open Views of creation, and God’s Uncontrolling Love. I say God isn’t a puppeteer but I want Him to be one in my life. HYPOCRITE! I came to that realization while waiting for the hiring manager today.

So, instead of praying for God to invade the free will of someone else, I simply asked him to give me the words to sell myself, instead of doing what I usually do which is go in anxious,and say something that shoots myself in the foot in a way that not even God could get me the job. It was really calming. I listened instead of talked. I formulated answers before just blurting stuff out. This calmness and centered spirit has happened to me before.

It was the last time that I fasted for a week. That was a long seven days, but in the end, every time I felt a hunger pain, I called to God for help, and asked for His love. He sent it, and we grew closer. For seven days, YHWH was my only sustenance (well, coffee, water, and chewing tobacco were involved).

For years I thought that the only true fast was a food fast. This was probably true until the advent of cheap cable television and the Internet. This concept, 1) took me a long time to accept, and not be judgmental about, and 2) is sad to me. It says a lot about what we value as a society.

Friends of mine are always talking about how they are giving up Facebook, or Twitter, or Instagram as their Lenten Fast. I used to always think that this was B.S. A fast is not eating, stop being a wuss and do it right!

A couple of years ago I was talking to my brother-in-law (awesome dude, by the way), and he too had that view that fasting was simply not eating. Anything else was not a true fast.But whilst we weretalking something clicked in me (the Holy Spirit? I don’t know). What is it called as you scroll up and down the posts on social media? It’s called, Your Feed. We literally think of social media as food.

Dudes, we have totally gotten away from the true sustenance: Christ and His Church (I’ll be writing about the Church and it’s ridiculousness, but necessity in my next post). In medieval times, the church was the center of life. This was even true in the western world after the Reformation. But slowly and slowly we have become a church of individuals, which turned into a no church, which turned into families breaking down, which turned us into a nation of phone addicts completely isolated and alone. As the great Cake song, “Sick of You” says, “Every camera, every phone, all the music that you own, won’t change your fact you’re all alone.”

I am not saying that I do not have this issue. I truly do.I spend a lot of time on the Internet. A lot of time on my phone. Anything I’m judging, I’m judging in myself. I think this needs to stop. Spousal abuse, child abuse, rape, and civil unrest are on the rise. How much of this can be attributed to the fact that we, yes me too, are glued to 24-Hour shock news, un-researched articles on Facebook, and the self indulgence on twitter and instagram? I think if we came back to the True Sustenance, maybe we could get civil again.

These last few weeks of unemployment has really helped me draw closer to God. This season will end, hopefully soon, as I like to pay my bills, but it has drawn me closer to the True Sustenance. Spending a few hours a day in the Word, and reading spiritual literature has truly helped return me back to the source of my salvation, and I have learned how to pray– I pray for God’s influence over me, so I can be His agent of change for others.

What is your sustenance? Your Phone? Netflix? Music? Adult Films? How about Christ?

By the way: I got that job today! I have to pass a background check (which I’ll do), and a DMV check (which might be a problem due to an accident and a ticket). I’m not going to stress about it,or ask for a miracle. I either passed or I didn’t. YHWH always provides. Trust me, I’m 50 pounds overweight, and ate two huge bowls of pasta while writing this article… on fasting.

Peace be to all.

Joe