Monday, January 31, 2005

It's interesting to me that smells communicate things that are almost impossible to articulate with words. There are smells that trigger memories, smells that elicit emotional responses, such as fear or happiness. I'm intrigued by that. We don't usually spend much time talking about, or even thinking about why our sense of smell has that kind of power.

People have smells that sometimes help me know more about them. (*the reader starts backing away..."ok Rob, you're starting to scare me.")
No, really. Odors are one way in which we broadcast our activities or habits, and we never seem to be able to fully mask them. I remember the church I used to go to...the leader there put a man out of the church because, according to him, he didn't smell like a Christian. He smelled like cigarette smoke. I'm still looking for that verse in the Bible. It's pretty sad to think of that guy, screwing up his courage to go talk to this bully of a pastor for help, only to get abused for the way he smelled.

A lot of Christians at the church I'm part of smell like cigarettes. Some of them smell like aftershave, breath-mints and alcohol. Most people have no smell at all, that I can detect. And of course, we never seem to be able to smell ourselves. It makes me wonder what I smell like to others? What really fascinates me is how insecure we become when we think about how we smell. I know for myself, there is the ideal out there, the cool people of the world, who only smell good at all times. I'm not one of them. My wife will walk by and remind me that I'm not; "Your breath stinks, what did you eat?"...and automatically I will file that somewhere under "character assessments", and quietly wish I could be one of the good smelling, cool people of the world.

I gave the Runaway Bunny a big hug last night. I hadn't talked to him in a week. He put his head on my shoulder and kept the embrace for a long time.
He smelled like dirty clothes and cigarette smoke. I remembered what he smelled like when he was a baby, and I would rock him to sleep during the worship services at our old church. He smelled faintly like cherries and baby powder then. But that was at least a hundred years ago.

It's strange to me, how much feeling and thought can be generated by a smell.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Dear_Someone connected with this address,
People just like you are writing to this 53 year old church, telling us all types of blessings since this church started praying with them. They are receiving divine help in the form of answered prayer....

I'm not kidding...that's how the letter started. It was typewritten with what looked to be a circa 50's typeface, the only thing missing was a few dropped letters and smudges. All through the letter there were, what looked like, hand drawn underlines, as though a very concerned person took the time to emphasize the important stuff for me. Throughout the letter were, what appeared to be, hand-written notes, helpful hints to guide me through this awesome encounter with (g)od's anointing.

The letter went on:

A prayer rug? For me?....oh, wait...loaning to me. Oh well, one can't be picky when looking for the big blessings. I dug through the envelope to find it. What I found first was another little publication that had some pretty convincing testimonials on it. One was from someone named "Y.G." (clearly someone so poor they couldn't afford a full name), who testified that when she prayed on the prayer rug, she received $46,888.20! That's right...and twenty cents! Now that's one effective prayer rug!

So, it's time to find this thing. Digging through the envelope, I find it. An 11x17 piece of printed paper, made to look sort of like an oriental rug. But there, in the middle of it, is a picture of Jesus.

Then...underneath the image, are these words: Look into Jesus' Eyes you will see they are closed. But as you continue to look you will see His eyes opening and looking back into your eyes....

Ok...this rug has already succeeded in one area...it has successfully made Jesus seem pretty creepy. The words go on to instruct me to put the rug on my knees (which makes it less a "rug", and more a shawl in my opinion), and then check my needs on the letter they sent.

Hmmm....better get back to that letter.

Skimming the letter, I got to the end...where there was a whole check-list of the things I needed...from "a closer walk with Jesus", to a blank for me to fill in a dollar amount I wanted Jesus to forward to me.
Oh yeah! Here we go! Come on blessings!!
That's when I saw the fine print...the last area to be checked said "enclosed is my seed gift to God's work of $___________".


Or what? Will I be cursed instead of blessed? I doubt it. As it turns out, St. Matthew's Church is just a scam, run by a man named Rev. James Eugene Ewing. He's been doing this for years apparently. There is no physical place where "St. Matthew's Church" meets...it's just a P.O. box in Tulsa. You can read all about this vile racket in this article. He preys on uneducated and poor people. The last time he released any information about his financial operations was in 1999, when he raped the poor for $26 million.

It's like a trembling...its the only way to describe it. Its probably fleshly rage, but I feel it to my core. I hate...and I mean HATE what these men do in the name of my King. The only thing that calms me down is when I remember the end of the story. One day, Mr. Ewing, if he doesn't repent, will be trying to get in to the Kingdom. But the door will be shutting on him. He'll want to scream that he's done all kinds of great things for God, led many to the Lord...but he'll be so weighted down with his own worldly fat that the only thing that will escape his mouth is a strangled, garbled belch. That's when the King will look through the crack of the closing door and say "What? Sorry, I can't understand you, and I don't seem to recognize you. I gotta' run now. You look cold....here's a prayer rug to wrap around yourself." Boom! The door thunders as it shuts.

Wow, Rob...you sound like you have issues.

heh. yeah. Pray for me.

Oh, and James Eugene Ewing....you're NOT getting your damned rug back.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

I received an e-mail from my past two days ago...actually, it was on the "great-big-hippie-day". A friend of mine whom I hadn't seen nor spoken to in 25 years e-mailed me out of the blue. It was a shock, but such a wonderful experience. Steve was my best friend in junior high and high school. He was a cartoonist like myself, and a Monty Python fan. As kids, we spent hours doing comic strips about our classmates, and quoting whole MP sketches to each other (which is where I became fascinated with imitating a British accent).

Steve was a good kid...I was a preacher's kid. As far as I know, he never did drugs or drank...I'm trying to remember if I ever recall him swearing. But he was hilarious, no one could make me laugh as hard as he. We drifted apart as high school came to a close, because I had moved out on my own, and most of that time is lost in a haze of mind-numbing parties. We played on a softball league together after graduating, and I went to visit him shortly after I had gotten saved. That's the last I had seen him, or talked to him.

I've thought about him a lot. I looked all over the internet for him, even resorted to e-mailing every address that contained his name in it...but to no avail. I went to my 20 year reunion back in '99 hoping I may see him there, but no dice.

Then, two days ago, he finds me.

I wrote him back right away. What stirred me even more, was that he really did remember me. The thought had crossed my mind that over the years, I had been lost in the clutter of younger years, and he didn't remember.

But there was an e-mail, right in my inbox, that told me differently.

So now I'm waiting on a response. He appeared, then disappeared just like that. Showed up just long enough to let me know he was still there, and that he remembered me. And now I wait, and just trust he'll get back with me when the time is right.

The whole thing is familiar somehow.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

ok....I'll admit it. I'm on hippie over-load. Shortly after I finished writing my blog yesterday, they arrived. Ten of them, piling out of an old RV like it was a clown car at the circus, smiling, stretching, smoking (I'm still hoping it was just cigarettes).

We served them spaghetti and salads, for which they were genuinely grateful...and I sat down with Spinoza (not his real name, just something from my father's old works that came tumbling back into my mind as I spoke with him). I asked who was the author of the Psalter manifesto, and everyone looked at Spinoza, and he smiled quite sheepishly and admitted to penning it.

"It was back while I was in college...I need to go through and edit it." he said wistfully, pushing a spaghetti noodle around his plate.

"Really? What changes would you make?" I asked.

"It's a little pretentious...I use a lot of Hebrew words that get things convoluted" he trailed off, still smiling as though he were aware of some inside joke.
Then he looked up at me, and I saw something in his eyes that broke my heart, and I couldn't put my finger on it. All I know is that at that moment, I loved this kid, regardless of our differences.

The day went on, and I was busy herding them from our place to the band house where they would crash, and then on to Schooners to set up their equipment. There are a bunch of funny stories that filled that space, but I'm too tired right now to even start setting them up. Suffice it to say that they were smiling and smoking and stretching all the way through this.

The show itself was...well...it was something else. Performance art. How often do we get the chance to be exposed to performance art in Bay county?
I honestly enjoyed their sound, their passion, their creativity. Yet for all that, I was cringing through most of their protest songs. They mentioned soldiers and cops in one, and they left me cold. Their purpose is to put a face on the suffering innocents of war, and that's fine...but in the process it becomes easy to forget the face of the others involved...the soldier, who does his duty and carries the pain of it. The cop who does his best, but its a fallen world, and he wrestles with dreams that haunt him. They are people too, they are not a corporation. Its easy to forget that when your young, and you have a cause. To strike out that way didn't reflect the humility I saw in them earlier, and I didn't enjoy that.

Madison Greene was Madison Greene. No political agenda, no angst...just that wonderful worshipful attitude. I still love those kids. Sad news about their future though....(*cryptic sigh*).

Later that night, as Robbie was reheating the spaghetti for them at the band house, I got the chance to talk with Spinoza at length. He shared his heart with me, and say what you will, this kid is sincere about what he believes. It wasn't much different from the stuff written in the manifesto. I cautiously expressed my difference of opinion, and shared with him my heart. It was genuine, humble and loving interchange of ideas between two people who saw the same problem, but had polar opposite solutions.

This must be something these guys go through a lot, because the whole band cleared out of the room as we started talking. The Madison Greene guys engrossed themselves in a rerun of Saturday Night Live...gotta' love those guys.

In the end, I didn't change Spinoza's mind (I really don't think I was trying to), nor did he convince me that he had the solution. What did happen, was that a squishy, 43 year old suburbanite, and an idealistic, 20 something, activist hippie agreed that Jesus Christ and Him crucified was ultimately THE essential solution, and the only important thing.

We both sat quietly, listening to the sounds of a fake news report from the other room. I looked at this kid eating spaghetti and smiling quietly to himself, and I could so easily imagine Jesus hugging him.

"Pray for us...for me. We try to minister Jesus to the underground, to anarchists and nihilists...and you know." He looked up at me with a look of deep concern. "You know...sometimes you can end up mirroring them more than ministering to them."

"I will pray for you...and you pray for me, for us at Eastgate. That we won't come away from this encounter and lose the challenge of it...that we don't end up mirroring a consumerist culture instead of ministering to it."

He smiled broadly, and we shook hands.

That was good.

But today, I have a hippie hangover. Too many hippies, too fast. I need more sleep, or I'll start stretching, and smoking and smiling all the time.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Ok...so it's 10:58 on Wednesday morning, and I'm waiting on pins and needles, for Madison Greene and Psalters to arrive. I've spent the morning reading the Psalters web-page. These are some pretty intricate people, I'm really anxious to meet them. They have a manifesto, and I have to say, I found it quite profound. I don't know that I find myself completely on the same page with them...but the underlying observations that drive them to their conclusions definitely resonate with me.

It could be summed up, I suppose, in a cry against consumerism, and a decadent, technological culture that ultimately results in dehumanization, not only of those who participate, but on the weak and oppressed who sometimes suffer because of our constant need to feed.

I guess my disagreements come down to eschatology. I don't believe the answer to this problem, which I agree exists, is going to come from human solutions. Being a conscientious objector toward society has historically ended in anarchism, or worse, nihilism.

I just believe more mystically...that there really is a return of the King coming, and that justice comes with HIM. Our attempts to achieve justice here, by our political efforts fall too far short, and always come with at least the perceived question of motive. The issue of sin undermines any effort for justice on a global scale. Therefore, sin is the primary problem which must be addressed...and sin has it's root and residency in the heart. That's why, from my perspective, the heart is of upmost importance, and its capture by the King. Efforts to create justice here, by human effort, no matter how noble and sacrificial, can never ultimately succeed. Our mission, as the church is to work in harmony with the Spirit to capture hearts, in anticipation of the King's return, and HIS establishment of justice.

Justice, then, gets manifested on an individual level, and finds its importance there. As an individual, the Christ follower determines to act fairly, speak honestly, live lovingly as a representative and citizen of the Kingdom to come, and refuse to be motivated or manipulated by a consumerist cultures desire for possessions and power. Living in the culture, yet using critical analysis to see it for what it is, and not be drugged by it. Much like Neo could work within the created world of the Matrix, but see the code for what it was...a fabricated reality, a false construct.

I suppose that if a person doesn't have that same belief, concerning an end of the age, then all efforts should be galvanized on the one goal of establishing justice here, through the efforts of good hearts. I applaud them for their efforts and commitment. I even am drawn to the concept of living, literally, outside of the comfort zone of our society. But I know that deep down, I would still be more observer than exile, and that wouldn't be honest.

I love being challenged. Thank you hippies. You haven't even gotten here, and my day has already gone deep.