Tag Archives: Jesus

What have I (not) done!

 

What Have I (not) Done!

 Pushing and shoving, dust and noise; the smell of bodies, the hubbub of celebrity- something novel was going on. I remember it like it was yesterday. When He came to town with his followers everyone seemed to sense it at once-in retrospect most folks were initially just drawn to the commotion as any curious onlooker would have been. While we all had heard of Him, none of us actually expected a visit to our little home, yet many of us were alerted by the shouting and ado as if there had been an accident in the street. In a sense, that is just what happened: an accident in the street- with hundred of witnesses- and one at least who ended up being a victim; me. The sad thing is, even though the event was so many years ago it is only now that I realize what had happened: and oh how I wish things would have turned out differently!

I wanted a glimpse and got way more than I bargained for; I ended up right in the middle of everything.  All of a sudden I was pushed from behind and fell right into Him, almost knocking Him down. Startled, I recoiled back:  then He looked at me. All I could do was stand there and try to look nonchalant with a stupid grin on my face as I caught His eye and His gaze bored into me, seemingly straight through to my very soul.  Just a short second or two but my… the sweetness and curiosity in His eyes as time stood still. The next thing, He kind of jumped, and turned to the great big, hard looking fellow who was with Him  saying, “Who touched me?” The big guy blinked as if to reply, “Are you crazy? Here you are in the middle of a mob and you want to know who touched You?” The big guy then kind of flicked his arms out and sent me sprawling into the dirt.  The others with him were trying to explain that everyone was touching Him; but He turned behind Himself and then looked down at Smelly Agnes saying that He felt power going out of Him. “Who touched me?” He asked again.

 Agnes was kneeling in the dust, and I was on the ground as well- my face was about six inches from her- and the look in her eyes… to this day when I think of it I get chills down my spine.  She was an old beggar widow that we used to treat like dirt—all dried up, with a squinched up face, and heavens did she have an odor about her; she smelled like a rotting corpse. We used to steer as clear of her as possible and make up the most awful jokes: a woman of no account and one we considered a burden to us all; until now. I gasped from surprise as I fell next to her with a gasp; the fragrance that surrounded her was as a hillside in the spring when all was in bloom. Her face was transformed into that of a stunning young girl in the absolute pinnacle of feminine loveliness. “I did” she said.

She had grabbed the end of His cloak in her conviction that He was who He said He was; and His power had turned her into something completely new. I had fell on top of Him; so close that I could smell His breath and feel the sweat on His clothes—but since I only considered Him an oddity and kind of news item, I was the same as I had even been, even until this very day.

Dear Jesus; have mercy on me for I have sinned a great sin. Please, please, please… give me another chance, and I won’t screw it up this time. Amen.

 

 

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EMOTION IS NOT A SACRAMENT

 

The Stadium in Nuremberg

Emotion is not a sacrament… or is it?

I go to worship every week and it is fantastic! We all come together in a spacious place that has a big stage in front. At the beginning of our service we all sing songs with a song leader and a great music director- sometimes with live musicians! Then sometimes we will have little play or demonstrations about what we believe in, and it is very exciting at times to see people we have only thought or heard about, right there in front of us! After a while we settle down and listen to our leader who preaches to us about what he has been meditating on over the past week, and how he has acquired new wisdom that he wishes to share with us concerning the circumstances of daily lives and the world at large.

We sing some more—popular songs we all know; songs that express how we feel, and they are so uplifting. We are never bored, things always move quickly and we don’t ever have to deal with sadness or any feelings of regret- it’s just so wonderful to be so “fed” by so much emotion and good will from every direction. The fellowship is all but indescribable, we are so in tune with each other, and we all are almost exhausted at the end of the service from all the stimulating sights and sounds.

Afterwards I just do not want to leave for when I do the feelings seem to leave as well, which is kind of sad in a way: but during the week we get together in smaller groups and try to recreate in a tiny way all the feelings we have during the big service. There are always deep discussions were we all try to interpret how we are to go about our daily lives and how to relate to others—especially to those who are not part of our belief system.  Junior leaders reinforce our conclusions always remind us to stay in tune with the times so we can adapt our attitudes and judgments to the ever changing world.

Our membership is always growing, because it is so easy to join: just a fealty oath taken in front of others; sometimes we can take them in private, and then we are members and can take part in all of the wonderful excitement that is so central to what we believe. Of course we walk in unity with our leaders and must adhere to their decisions; being cast out of our community is something too terrible to contemplate. Besides, who would want to, everything is so wonderful, and everyone is so nice to each other when we are all together -it is just unbelievable that anyone would not wish to walk with us. There are so many other benefits as well- business and social ties are formed where we just keep holding each other up against the rest of the world; we are trying to make people see that it is much better to be with us than against us.

 The future is bright, as we strive to break down all the old barriers and impediments that place obstacles in our paths of happiness, fulfillment and the brotherhood we have when we are all together. The old ways of community and the old hierarchies that place too much emphasis on the what and why we do things is obsolete; we know that what matters is the emotional ties that bind us into a new union will lead us to a new dawn. It is not the actions themselves that have any real purpose or value, but the feelings behind them that are the real source of our power


The Problem with Proof Texts part 2

 

Supper was over, and a few went on night guard, but the rest stretched out on our bedrolls and built smokes; we decided to explore at leisure Lutes epiphany. First thing we did was to try and get to the bottom of just what in the world this here avian oddity looked like—and off he went again like a man who had swallowed a pound of chili peppers and then tried to put out the fire by flapping his gums. The description he gave was sketchy at best, but then while we were shooting him down he jumped up and ran to his pack saddle. “I’ll show you just what I am talking about!!” Out from his pack he drew a long willowy thing, like a skinny two handed Scottish claymore.
It was a feather. About three feet long, and well, it was FEATHERY all along the edges with this beautiful round eye shaped end on it. Blue and purple, yellow and red, all at once—indeed it was about the prettiest thing I had ever seen and it come off of what sounded like an overstuffed chicken. “It is covered with these things all over! I tell you; just let them grow and then pluck ‘em off when you want one, or a slew of ’em. After that you can eat the bird when you are done with the feathers. They taste just like Gods own Sunday Dinner running in the streets of Golden Jerusalem!!!” After that soliloquy, Lute had to stop for a bit and catch his breath.

After a smoke and a short rest, Luther began again in earnest to convince us of his singular and unique discovery, along with the concomitant consequences which were sure to flow from such novelty. Unfortunately for him however, no matter how hard he tried, he could not quite seem to get his central ideas across about these “peacocks” as he called them. After a bit of cogitating Lute jumped up and snapped his fingers; “Why it’s been staring me right in the face the whole time, and I did not understand it– I really did not understand it at all; but now I do! Look right here, all of you… This right here, is all I or anyone else needs to see and contemplate to realize the fullness off peacock truth in its essence and glory!” Thus Luther Martin raised his right arm to heaven and held up above his head that long singular wand of a feather for all to contemplate.

“This one thing; this single feather not only proves the truth of peacocks, but it validates and authenticates all I have been telling you about these bodacious critters and how through me, they will change the face of civilization. This one feather is all ANYONE needs to understand all there is to know about Peacockery. With this feather, all questions can be answered and all problems solved when it comes to everything AVIAN. Why, it is as plain as the nose on your face, pards!”


The problem with Proof Texts part 1

One day Luther Martin rode up to the wagon and started carrying on about the new critter he discovered over west of the Divide. Now, you would have thought that it would not have made much difference to the rest of us: punching cows  our entire lives across the high plains the way most of us have done, what would one more strange new animal  mean to  a crew like us. Eagles and jacks, lions and cats, bears and antelope; we had seen and pondered pretty near every iteration of Gods matriculating creation across the prairie. Shaky Bob even had a thing or bugs for crying out loud; he even kept a bunch of mashed and dried ones between the leaves of a tally book in his bedroll. For fun once in a while he would take out the book and tell bug stories about them during slow evenings around the fire.

So you see it is not an overly strange thing for a fellow to come into camp and give us the latest on something new: and that is just what happened that August evening when ol’ Lute loped up to our camp and stepped down to the fire. Luther rode for our outfit in years past, until one spring when a bad horse wreck laid him up in town for several months. We were all surprised to see him show up, and more so since he said he was repping for an outfit on past China Reef. I asked why he was gathering strays for the MacNeill when he could have come back to us for work- after all Lute was a pretty decent hand, and we were short that summer. Oh my! Wrong question—for right then Luther Martin got as fired up as an Old Testament Prophet! It seems he took a ride on a train to see his sister over the Divide during his convalescence- and what a story he spun for us about the new wonder he found in that hilly damp, brooding place.

His life was forever changed he swore. For this new animal he had run across over west was, “One for the Ages!”, and he would never be the same. It was covered with feathers from head to foot– the prettiest feathers you had ever seen. It could fly like an eagle. Its taste was gastronomic Salvation, and to top it off, she was as pretty as a dance hall girl in her painted up prime. In fact, the riding job for the MacNeill was temporary; Lute signed on to pick up their strays so they could finish closing out. The powers that be on the MacNeill were wanting to gather all their branded stock for market so the shareholders could get their money- then Lute was hitting the high points at a dead lope for the west slope to  indulge in his Great Adventure; one that would set the rest of the world agog. He was going in for this new critter in a big way: Lute was going to be what he called a “peacock” rancher.

“This bird”, he proclaimed, “is going to take the world by storm and I am fixing to be right in the eye of it! I will be supplying all of Christendom with who knows how many jillions of them! For they taste great… and the feathers!! You have never seen anything like them!! Nor will you again on this side off Gloryland!”. Goodness, we about had to tie ol’ Lute down for all the ruckus he was making…and about a bird for crying out loud!


Gnosis part 3

The worst part of being a wolf was the constant killing– any number of victims for a single meal, or just for fun. This is not something that sheep take to right off. The blood and whimpering, and the  cries for mercy slowly begin to strangle most, until one day a sheep finds he has changed into a wolf forever.

 A sheep in wolfs clothing can find himself in a pretty tight spot from time to time. The pack he was running with one day cornered a ewe and her twins against a rocky ledge. How she got separated from the band he never found out, for she was a prime ewe with two big lambs. It was a pitiful sight: two quick snaps and the lambs were gone; the ewe looking on in disbelief. Then it was her turn.

 One held her by the throat while another got her down and started to eat her udder while she was still alive (an old wolf trick, and their favorite delicacy). They shouted to him to lick up some of the blood that was gushing out of her throat, but he had to turn away, for he was a sheep, you know.

 FOR HE WAS A SHEEP YOU KNOW… there it was! He had come to a decision- or a decision had come to him, it did not matter now . Away off that rocky ledge he went, heedless of the slope and brush in the darkness. Away from that glint in the eye that said, “I am Death, and soon so shall you!”

 Off comes the wolf pelt; it was slowing him down; no where to go but away from where he had found himself. Guilt, sadness, and remorse filled his soul; his SHEEP soul. A soul now rejoicing in the vow that he would rather die a sheep than live a wolf. Oh that he could have taken the place of that poor ewe! But no- she was gone like so many others, with his hooves soaked in their blood. So die indeed he purposed to do, as he kept charging headlong down the mountain until collapsing in the late gloaming of a summer dawn.

The old wether shakes his head and stomps his foot, yet this next memory never fades, no matter how many times he visits it.

Over the far slope strode the Herder.
“There you are! I’ve been looking all over for you. Lets get back to the rest!”


Gnosis, part 1

To look at him you would not expect anything out of the ordinary. Like any other sheep of his generation he was beginning to show his age. Stiff in the joints, fleece a bit coarser and more uneven than in years past. “Long in the tooth”, some would say, but in reality a few were broken off and the rest worn down to blackened stubs. Smooth mouthed, livestock people call it. Slower gaited, slower eating, with a clouded eye that sees more of what was than what is- “Why not?”, he asks himself, “there is much more of yesterday to ponder than there is of tomorrow “.

As a lamb, he was lucky enough to be on one of the better ranges in the country, although at the time he did not know it. Life was good; but as he got older, he began to notice more and more the inconsistencies of life as a sheep. Most sheep were restless– indeed they seemed to be downright uncomfortable with being sheep. In fact, they started to do some very unsheep-like things. He started asking others why; in point of fact he found two philosophies fighting it out before his very eyes.

The older quieter sheep held to their quaint outdated ways. Being sheep they were content in their sheepness and took pride in what sheep were good at: growing wool, eating weeds and shrubs, having lots of lambs to carry on after them. In general helping to keep the rangelands in the same good order they found them while doing the most important thing of all, following the herder and just being sheep.

Now what he learned from his friends and neighbors was something quite different; and it WAS different in a dangerous, sort of delicious way. They told him it was no longer proper for a sheep to be a sheep; in fact it was downright unethical nowadays. Every sheep was destined to be as unsheep-like as possible: it was their “duty and right to evolve as fast as possible”.

In fact the beau ideal of sheepness now, was to become a wolf

END PART 1


Salvation

Fifty years ago, Bruce and I got lost in the woods behind my house. Disorientation, panic, confusion; everything being strange, senses and our trust in them began to fail. There is nothing like being well and truly lost-especially at the age of seven. An hour of brush popping for a couple of little boys makes a fine prelude to the concept of an eternity without Hope.

Wait!…I saw a building! The inside of a garage- MY garage. There is Dads ladder- there is my bat- there is the sack of Ava and Midges Dog Chow. Right through those branches is safety, security… salvation. Salvation from the agony of life devoid of every comfort and consolation.

 Now, convincing Bruce of this discovery puts a whole new perspective on the task of relating Good News. I found the way, he had not; will he accept the truth coming from another? He had been in my house as much as any best friend would; but while familiar with it, he was not so intimate with the details which made it distinct from all other homes. Overall impressions are sometimes more like unfocused assumptions. Without the intimacy that comes from knowledge most ideas and concepts become less precious- more mundane , easier to accept and reclassify as bin run sameness.

My home was precious to me. I knew it and valued it above all others. Though salvation to us both in this instance, Bruce made two quick decisions that changed the course of his life. First he decided he did not recognize my home. Secondly he decided not to trust my judgment that it indeed was my home.

A third decision was jointly made, and haunts me down to this very day. He was beside me in a rising panic as I shouted in triumph that we were saved; all he said was, “NO!”- he was turned around and convinced that safety led in the opposite direction. So convinced in fact , that he even refused to come any closer and inspect the situation more clearly. He became ever more sure of a monumental mistake on my part.

 Each and every argument has been the same since the Serpent and Eve. Both sides are certain, while only one is correct. In an instant we decided our paths– in the next we acted- our bonds of friendship did not withstand the decision before us. I saw Salvation, and gestured toward it; he did not see it, nor would he trust the judgment of his most intimate friend. Bruce disappeared back into the brush.

The next moment is still as vivid now as it was 50 years ago; “What now? Was I to follow my friend back into danger and isolation, or do I go home to the real and tangible sanctuary that for a little boy represents every aspect of true Salvation.

Never losing sight of what was certain I fairly stormed to the sure safety of home… MY home! The relief and joy while immense began to be tempered by something new; the frenzied yells of my friend receding ever more quietly as he plunged ever deeper into the opposing direction. That last decision we both made- to go our own separate ways based upon our own reasons in the short intense argument at the edge of the woods resulted in one irrevocable reality.

He was lost; I was found.