Christianity without a cross Part #1

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I woke up this morning thinking about Christianity without a cross…not sure what prompted the thought but here it goes…

In my recent journey I have come to the conclusion that the cross is not some sort of master plan but rather it is the response of heaven to humanities disease. This line of thinking will drag you to ask “Could God save us without a cross?”…which of course leads to the obvious question of “save us from what? Whats the disease?

Before we start unpacking the questions lets sweep away the debris left over from our fundamental thinking…which shows up in questions like “What about all the prophecies about the cross in the OT?”

Well…there aren’t exactly any direct references to a “cross” as a form of execution in the OT, just some general references to suffering and being pierced and etc…we have to read the cross back into the text and we do it in all kinds of ways like using “tree” to refer to a cross, and even Paul will dip into this metric a bit suggesting Jesus was hanged (the reference in the OT says “hanged” not nailed)…which should make you stop for a moment and ask if the blood of Jesus would have the same salvation quotient if Jesus was hanged and not nailed?

Well would it? What if not one drop of blood had been shed but instead Jesus was executed by common hanging? Would you still be saved and how would that work? We need to dig down into what it is we are saved from and to

As I look at the remains of the theology I grew up with there are many building materials that suggest we are all born sinful and in need of a pure blood to cleanse away this sinful nature and of course this was figured into the plan all along and the cross was the perfect intersection of Gods love and justice where he could pour out his blood to cleanse us without getting his own hands dirty by killing an innocent pure blood victim (himself) but as I look at the pieces I realize, nope those things never fit together as perfectly as I imagined and there are places where the puzzle is “forced to fit” and it does not in fact fit together all neat and nice, and frankly all this talk of “pure blood” sounds a bit mythical sort of like we are talking about Vampires or other creatures of legends…now if you are one of the folks who reads this and thinks “Mark has lost his faith” let me smack you upside the head and say:

“Stop letting others think for you, use your mind and sort through the hard questions yourself and stop labeling those of us who are being honest…you’re lying to yourself and you know it”

A good portion of my friends cannot even talk to me because these kind of thoughts and questions are “dangerous” or whatever, and let me be frank for a minute and say I think you are fake because if you cannot be honest and our relationship depends on us agreeing and you don’t value our relationship over your certainty then I find that incredibly immature, and gently suggest you grow the fuck up…asking hard questions is not the same as “losing my faith” it is far from it and let me go on the record and say what masquerades as “certain faith” is often just fear and the need to control by way of speaking loudly over the truth, I’ve seen it and done it myself for years…ie:

By His stripes I am healed, and yet there I remain in pain, but that’s not how it works, faith is NOT magic”

I still believe in Jesus I am still very orthodox and believe the text where it says I am cleansed, I still believe in the blood of Jesus, I still believe in speaking my faith, what I do NOT believe in is magic, and if my faith looks like magic I am no longer content to just blow it off and not ask questions, if at the end of my questions it IS magic, then I will accept that, but right now I do not accept that as what I am supposed to believe, I believe in Gods love and that might be bigger than I can fathom but that does not make it magic.

Now that all the certain and religious folks have left the room lets get on with some questions.

Let me make my first really controversial statement that might seem a little convoluted, but it gets there trust me:

Christianity without the cross needs magic to work, and there’s no such thing as magic.

What do I mean by that?

Well first of all lets remove the idea that the cross of Jesus was a special event uncommon and “magical”…it was a normal execution in it’s time, it was standard operating procedure for the Empire to keep things rolling as usual, we have plenty of historical evidence for this fact, lets stop treating it as an anomaly, people still get crucified, it’s not nearly as common, true, but it still happens even in todays’ world.

But Mark you are saying “Christianity WITHOUT the cross” and here you are talking about it all the while…yeah I know kind of weird huh?

Let me explain my logic…when I suggest Christianity without the cross what I am saying is a form of faith that takes “normal” and makes it extra special with God-sauce and no way that it can be simply human…in other words it takes our violence to Jesus which is basically just normal human everyday behavior and turns it into some kind of one-off Divine special moment that is so unique it can have no real meaning outside of secret handshake knowledge and mystery and blood hidden in a dimension to cover sins hidden somewhere inside us requiring a special “cleanse” but with no real effect on the outside world.

Could you still believe in Jesus if he was hanged and not bled to death like some animal, could he save us without being drained of his blood? Some say “No” others like myself need to ask it before we dismiss it.

A religious model that takes this blood sacrifice to such an extreme that two well known TV preachers can sit and talk about needing jets to fly in because they are so pure by this secret blood cleansing they cannot fly with common demon covered folks because the contamination will hamper the invisible prayer connection they have to this secret blood splattering God…(never mind these same two preachers have told us for years about their “authority” over demons by this same extra special cleansing, never mind that the accepted notion of “all those demons” were defeated by the same cross, never mind the obvious lavish lifestyle and narcissism embedded into this kind of thinking), its like the magic blood only works some of the time and your mileage may vary depending on the size of the donation affixed…okay then, this kind of thinking, this model needs to be examined, is it real or is it magic?

This is exactly where the “cross” is missing…when you turn the cross event into such a special magic moment that it no longer has any application in your own life you are living in Christianity without the cross, you have replaced the cross with some supernatural event so large as to be unknowable, you have turned the cross (a purely natural human execution) into such a special event as it loses relevance and meaning and might as well be dragon breathed unicorn poop because there’s no way to access it or apply it.

Think about it…how do we access blood shed over 2000 years ago, is it in a special prayer jar in some other dimension? Some people hint and believe this and I am not belittling it just asking serious questions here, think about it a minute, if the blood of Jesus is the substance that is so vital to restoring humanity then why was it not captured into some basin and preserved in such a way as every newborn from then on had access to it and thus we would never have had Hitler or murderers or the Holocaust or well…sin.?

If picking up your cross and following Jesus gets smeared to mean flying coach instead of owning your own private jet you have basically turned the cross event of Jesus into such an unusual human event it has no meaning for you, you are not living with a cross event what you are describing is magic…and that is not the cross of history, that is not the cross of Jesus.

Well what about all those verses about blood and being cleansed and you know, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” and whatnot?

Great question but we still haven’t answered what it is we are supposed to be saved FROM…what is it exactly that we need cleansing from? What contaminates us? What does it even mean to be unclean or contaminated, does it mean being covered with unclean demons, or our own sin, and why does blood of all things cleanse that, why not a good soul bath?

At some point we have to stop letting our assumptions lead the conversation…we have assumed meanings for “unclean” and “sin” and “cleansing” and these assumptions have led us to some rather magical explanations…but lets remove the unicorns and fairy dust for minute because Jesus NEVER speaks like you need magic, if we are going to accept Jesus as some kind of sacrifice lets at least get his perspective on it.

I haven’t sorted it all out yet, I have some ideas but will leave those for a minute to say this:

If your idea of the cross makes it so special that you can get away with pride and greed and selfish narcissistic and abusive behavior because you are somehow “cleansed” and “redeemed” but you have no responsibility or accountability to the rest of humanity (not to God, he doesn’t have to live with you the way we do) then what you are living with is not the cross but instead a magical get-into-heaven-free-card and it has no meaning in this world you are currently polluting with your arrogance…it is not the cross Jesus went to or even suggest you carry, it is a special magic bullet for bad behavior that makes it OK, and I am not OK with that.

If Jesus’ death means anything at all it MUST mean that our bad behavior is not OK, it CAN mean it is forgiven and we should likewise forgive each other but it cannot mean “free pass act however you want God’s got your back”

I suspect it means something more like “Really? You’re going to go ahead and be so selfish and stubborn and blinded by your own systemic violence that you will willingly watch MY blood pour out for your own amusement, you know this means my death right? Still gonna go through with it? Ok if this is what you choose I forgive you, now what?”

And then God waits three whole days to let it sink in…

And I’m gonna follow His example and stop here for as moment…lets let the question hang there bleeding out for a while….

 

An Angel and Evangelist and a Eunuch

Just a semi-short blog about a passage in Acts that sort of stands out a bit…in Acts 8:26-40 there is an interesting story about the evangelist Philip being told by “The Angel of the Lord” (same guy who gave a shout out to Mary and the shepherd etc.) to head down to a desert road and hang out…as he does so he comes upon a chariot and then the Spirit (first the Angel of the Lord then the Spirit, seems like its a pretty important assignment) tells him to join up to the chariot.

When Philip gets near enough he hears the guy reading the passage about the suffering servant and manages to strike up a conversation and explain the gospel as he does.

Now there are some very interesting colors in this quaint non-christmassy (sort of) story that bear a striking resemblance to a lot of the birth narratives we find in Luke and Matthew…first the guy is a foreigner who is returning from Jerusalem where he went to worship…think about this a minute…the text says he is a eunuch, and he is returning from worshiping at the center of developed religion…here maybe a text from the official  rules of who is in and who is out might help put it in perspective:

“He whose testicles are crushed or whose male member is cut off shall not enter the assembly of the Lord”-Duet. 23:1

Ummm…okey dokey Mo, thanks for that…but lets not assume this is only a Jewish rule, the Qumran (according to Josephus and Philo) has this comment: “The Law…excludes from the sacred assembly all who are unworthy, beginning with the men…who falsify the distinctive mark bestowed on them by nature”

Or how about this gem from the satirist Lucian of Samosata:

“Such half men ought to be excluded from all participation in sacred things and all public assemblies and associations”

Here’s my point whoever this guy is he is a eunuch and in that culture this is not exactly a position of honor, even though he has attained to a special status as financial director for the Queen Mother of Ethiopia (which is a lot like England’s queen mothers position)…

See the texture start to converge a little here… rejected, non-accepted in religious faith of choice, societal pariah, yet searching in the desert and hearing something in the text that makes him wonder, “Is this about Isaiah or someone else?”…rejected despised of men…

Think about it a minute, the scriptures have basically said this guy is not allowed into the assembly of the faith…does this sound like anyone in our culture? Someone who’s sexuality has prohibited them from being accepted in the assembly of the Lord?

Without disparaging the current LGBTQ community this particular text does seem to be focused on a segment of society that religion and even politics have shut out…the Jewish text is quite clear this guy is NOT allowed into the community of the Lord, yet the Angel of the Lord and the Spirit BOTH demand that Philip go and JOIN this chariot and help him understand the gospel INCLUDES him…and this important story makes it clear that God seems to feel a need to send his brightest and best specifically to find this person because society and even the text has excluded him…sort of…if the guy manages to read on a few chapters further he will find out that God has a special place WITHIN HIS WALLS, IN HIS HOUSE A PLACE AND A NAME BETTER THAN SONS OR DAUGHTERS (Isaiah 56:4-5)

The story goes on to say they come upon water (how did it get there in the desert?)…

…and the eunuch asks to be baptized (verse 37 about “believing” is not in most original text but is in almost all the Latin versions let the reader understand)…somehow the gospel narrative has made it far enough to explain how one joins the community and Philip does not hesitate to let this guy join, no rules, no change no need to “heal his sexuality”…

And a new member of the community is recognized and accepted and then Philip is carted off by the Spirit to go preach to “the uttermost”…

Here’s my main point, this story with all of the supernatural influence, the Angel of the Lord, the Spirit telling Philip to get to the chariot, the trans-location at the end, etc…all of this points to something very deeply inclusive because it stands out in spite of the homogeneous Jewish-Christian narrative that Luke tries to paint in the book of Acts, it actually stands some of that on it’s ear because of how inclusive it shows the new community of faith to be.

Someone outlawed by the religious text from joining and being part of the community, someone outcast from social influence and basically without any voting rights because of his sexuality, a segment of society that is feared and misunderstood ONLY because of societies focus on perceived sexual wholeness, to this person the Angel of the Lord sends its best evangelist, to this person the Spirit of the Lord demands he join with, to this person baptism and inclusion into the faith is offered without hesitation…THIS is the gospel…and it’s right there in the text.

One final thought…it is here that we finally find a base-line in the historical text that says the gospel is finally going out into the “uttermost parts of the earth” it is when we start including those whom we think the text has excluded and it is accepting them that we finally start exploring where God has wanted us to go all along…

 

As usual your mileage may vary…Peace Goodwill to men all of ’em…

-M

 

 

Home (or something like it)

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Ok, so this post is basically about the first country song I have recorded (of my own)…

I wrote the song about 10-15 years again as a challenge artistically to only use 2 chords for an entire song…which I pulled off, but recently I was going through my catalog of journals and came across it and thought, “oh yeah this is fun” so I pulled it out and dusted it off…it needed one more chord for the bridge…but essentially it only has 2 colors of chords so it’s naturally a bit monochrome…enter me…

I write a lot, creating is how I unwind and vege…so I ended up playing parts (pretending)…

The piano player (me) is no longer speaking to me since the engineer (me) cut out all his parts…same thing with the banjo player who in a huff knocked over a cup of coffee on his way out (empty, thankfully)…

The vocalist (me) got into a shouting match with the engineer(me), it was quite ugly for about 3 hours with them yelling back and forth at each other, using the F word abundantly and being basically asses towards each other…fortunately it was late at nite in an iso booth so no one but me heard it…

We suspect the bass player and the harmonica player (both me) were drunk which is curious since neither of them drink, but they were all over the map with their parts often drifting completely off script into different songs…the mix engineer (me) basically looked at me and said “You’re fucking kidding right?” and sent it back to the tracking engineer (me) who had not slept and made huge mistakes in microphone selection to begin with…

There are only 2 guitar parts…just two…one acoustic and one electric…I feel really bad for the electric guitarist (he’s the guy in the picture, yes it is current) he is still sitting on the couch between the tape deck and the outboard rack expecting anytime the engineer will tell him “Ok now you can play that blazing lead you’ve been waiting on” we basically had to keep telling him (me) that “Wait your part is coming up, just play something simple until then…he looked like a sad puppy when we left…probably still there…

The amps, preamps, compressors and even computer were built by “Iomegaman” (me) so that’s why he required we upload to his soundcloud account since we have not paid him a dime for his gear…he’s quite patient but kind of a tool…(user)…

Anyway here’s the lyric from off my head, if they are different from the recorded version don’t tell the songwriter (me) he’s very sensitive and quite anal about things being exactly as he wrote them (even if the timing is all whacked) he apparently is good friends with the vocalist because no matter how we tried to adjust timing, the vocal guy kept singing things wrong…Oy vey whadda ya gonna do?

There’s the dangerous way that your eyes light up when I’ve really made you mad

But I know if I can make you laugh that it won’t turn out all bad

And the first one to bed has to put out the lights, that’s the way the game is played

Unless of course I get there first and you’ll pretend you’re not awake…

(Chorus)

    Cause home is more than just four walls with a view, 

    Home’s that special place between me and you

    Home is more than just some pictures on a wall, 

    Home’s the sound that your heart makes when I call I call you home

Sometimes it’s me, sometimes it’s you, then it’s me again

And the circle of our history it makes the portrait of a friend

You laugh when I cry I cry when you laugh and there’s always in-between

I pretend like you can’t read my mind when you tell me what I mean

(chorus)

(Bridge)

Some folks think of heaven like some mansion on a hill, 

But that idea never worked for me and I guess it never will

Cause what I want no angel can touch, not even in a country mile

Heaven for me is when  see the devil in your smile

(Chorus)

I wonder what the other folks do I wonder how they get along

Cause nothign”ive sen beats you and me, there’s nothing quite this strong

With our breakfast in bed and the books that we’ve read and all the dust that we’ve walked through

Makes it hard to see, did you find me or babe did I find you?

(Chorus)

End the song somehow…

The song is not about any particular girl/woman…basically just my projection of what a relationship might look like if it was healthy…

The girl’s voice laughing in the track is a friend of mine I recorded a few years ago, she was making a worship album and she is really a great singer but was nervous so I kept making her laugh…I kept the tape rolling as a general rule…you always sing better when you are laughing or have laughed…90% of all really good recording is making the artist feel comfortable enough to naturally give their best performance…hence the train wreck for this particular band…they may never get back together…the animosity was off the charts…it’s a wonder they haven’t killed one another…

Not my typical style of music, although I do write exactly like this…and no I am not schizophrenic…

And neither are we…

Going it alone

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The first deer I ever shot was in the Rincon mountains east of Tucson, just a few miles from Colossal cave…it was my first real hunt and there were about 6-8 of us young married men out doing what young men talk about doing, killing things.

Our guide (another young married with more experience than the rest of us) had scoped out one of the hills/ridges across from us, I remember sort of panicking inside because when I glassed the hill where everyone was talking about the bucks and how many there were I saw absolutely nothing but rocks and shrubs…finally in a quiet voice I overcame my fear and asked my friend Steve who was lying in the brush next to me, “Where? I don’t see anything?”…he was patient and told me where to look and still I could not see anything in spite of his detailed description…finally he said “see that grey thing that looks like a rock? Watch it”…OHHHHHH…I see it now…I almost laughed out loud…

I had grown up in Oklahoma, I was expecting to see BROWN DEER…not grey…

Finally the herd moved over the ridge, we had decided that as soon as they were out of sight we would quietly as possible ALL rush around the ridge and it would be everyman for himself…since I was hesitant I sort of got the bad luck of the draw, two guys going right, three guys going left, one guy going down the ravine to the bottom etc…that left me to go over the top…which was no easy stroll…

About the time I crested the top I heard gunshots on the right, gun shots on the left and knew basically my chances were blown, deer have an unusual reticence about loud noises and are swift of foot to depart all places that have such oddities…so I sat down at the crest to recover my sucking lungs and aching side…

That’s when luck and possibly the kindness of yielding reaped a dividend…I heard a rock fall beneath me…in spite of two guys running right in front of me from right to left to go see the kill that had happened, and all the noise nearby a nice sized buck was slowly crawling away directly beneath me…see not all deer run, some freeze and THEN run, and if it is too obvious to run, they sneak…

He did not see me sitting atop my rock taking my time and with a premeditated prayer and a calm pull of a trigger I shot my first deer.

I had learned how to field dress one only the night before, one of my friends stopped by and admired the trophy and gave me some advice on dressing it out…and it was about this time that a stranger came up, he was with Game and Fish, he had a scope and saw my tag was in order, congratulated me on helping control the population from disease…I asked him, “Does that ravine go back to the Happy Valley road” (where camp was) “Oh yes he replied, it does”  and then he left…

This is a good place to tell you that there are no such things as short cuts…my choice was to either go back UP the breath-sucking ridge back track and walk back into camp, probably a couple of miles OR go down the ravine and find a nice flat walk to camp…like the young American male I was I went DOWN into the sandy ravine,  back pack, rifle, and what felt like 150 pounds of deer across my shoulders…

The two-mile walk into camp turned into a 5-7 mile all day journey that took me almost 12 hours to complete…once I found my way into the nice sandy dry river bed that was the gateway from the ravine it wasn’t but about a half an hour until the sandy flat bottom changed as I trudged in the hot Arizona heat…the walls of the ravine suddenly sprang up around me as I descended with ease…but once I got to the bottom it was obvious there was no going back, dragging that dead carcass and my gear back UP over the ravine was simply not an option…I had bounced down into my path with a certain amount of post hunt adrenaline, but now as the drudgery set in that adrenaline was gone.

I won’t bore you with the details about Cylindropuntia fulgida, aka “jumping cholla”, but twice I had to stop in anger throw everything to the ground, open up a knife and dig that wonderful desert flower out of my calves…it has an amazing property in that once it latches onto some moving object it’s needles actually dig in deeper with each bit of motion…

I did make it to camp, was one of two of the hunters to get a deer, found out that my wifes pregnancy was a BOY and OU beat Nebraska in football, so over all it was a pretty good day…but I don’t really remember the good as much as I do the lesson of shortcuts and going it alone.

Lately I’ve felt a bit like I was out in the wilderness, hunting something and expecting it in the wrong color…I’ve had a few fellow travelers correct my perception and now I can kind of see what I am hunting…but this brings up an interesting question that at this point in my life I am asking…do I really want to find any kind of victory alone? What good is the hunt if you end up in some ravine with cactus digging into your backside?

Many people in my situation and many of them saying “I don’t trust the others, I am content to take my trophy and get on with life back in camp”…but I hesitate here…not because I don’t understand, because I do, I do understand that others have left you to fend for yourself and maybe even took your trophy or disqualified your victory or…well I don’t know…I am not you and I have no right to presume why you would want to go it alone, OTHER than it is something our culture glorifies and revels in, the independent spirit, the lone wolf, the renegade who can do it all by themselves…but there is a subtle deception in all of that…

You did not find the trophy alone, you will not get to Happy Valley alone, and truthfully you will never be alone even when think you are, there are generations right behind you and in the womb that are either gonna follow you down or follow you up…

At this point in my life I am well satisfied to ask a friend once in a while, “Hey can you maybe carry my rifle or back-back for a short while? I am tired and there’s this thing digging into my leg…”

I didn’t see a single soul in that ravine once I entered it…it was a valley of unmerciful heat surrounded by lonely cliffs and punctuated by snakes and jumping cactus…

Two things I took out of that canyon…there are no shortcuts and going it alone was not how we are supposed to live…as usual your mileage may vary.

Oh yeah I also took my first and probably my last deer…I appreciate that others enjoy wildlife management by hunting and I can applaud the benefit they provide…but for me, I have come to find a much deeper appreciation for letting wild things live wild lives and am content to come close and simply adore it.

Ghosts

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I spent almost 20 years in a small mountain community that has a gunfight between the cowboys on the main street…and train robbers…and of course a train that rolls you up into the Grand Canyon and back again in a day. Every night during the summer you can find a crowd of tourist and some incredibly authentic cowboys fighting over a barmaid or a card game gone south, it’s a lot of fun and with the horse-drawn carriages and the train whistle I feel like I spent the last twenty year in the 1800’s…well at least on summer nights.

Lots of Old Western buildings, the town had died and been reborn many times, there were even some old hotels that boasted “ghost tours”…old west legends and what not…

During the winter all that changed, snow would make driving a challenge, and the mountain highways (and especially the road north to the Grand Canyon) contained another kind of ghost, not the Stephen King kind but the “grey ghost of the mountains” the elusive elk and deer that thrived in the worlds largest ponderosa pine forest we know of.

There is something both haunting and exciting about hearing the elk bugle in the early morning fog, echoing off peaks and pines the sound is otherworldly and they are truly elusive along with the other tribes of deer and wildlife that make the Coconino Forest their home…you see them but sometimes you think you’ve only seen a ghost, a brief flash of grey or rust and then they’re gone like Keyser Soze in the Usual Suspects “poof and he’s gone” (arguably Kevin Spaceys finest performance).

I’ve learned to not invest to deeply in people who don’t have a ghost or two hanging around them, or worse yet never admit to having any ever, the perfect person ascended back to heaven and you ain’t him so lets cut the crap we all have ghosts.

Oh I get it how some people only want to focus on the “positive” and the glass is always half full approach is probably valid most of the time, but it is our ghost that allow us to connect our most important aspect of who we are, our hearts.

Our brains are undoubtedly our greatest tool in gathering data, informing our decisions and processing our surroundings, but it is our hearts that are our greatest power. When someone says they have no ghosts or refuse to admit that they have been seen what they are saying is “I only want to connect in places I can control…I will answer your heart question with a brain response”…that is unkind. It means the person either thinks your heart is not worth the honest effort or their heart is somehow better than to connect with you on that level…and it’s not that I don’t trust them, it’s that they don’t trust themselves and when push comes to shove they will be unpredictable.

Crisis has a way of changing our environment…and when that changes our brains go into overtime to control it, and when your brain is in overdrive the heart is usually in the pickup bed bouncing around saying “Hey don’t forget I’m back here”…

And that’s about the time we turn the corner and run over someone who was trying to get close to us or give us advice or well, warn us the bridge was out up ahead and BOOM!…another ghost is born.

People who fail to see or admit to the ghosts in their lives should not be allowed to drive you around…I’m not saying avoid them…just don’t invest too much in their destination…someone is gonna get run over, like an elk rushing out of the mist it will be unavoidable and hopefully it won’t be you.

I’ve been on the receiving end of getting hit by ghost avoiders…people who would not face the truth about themselves and what that meant to my heart…and each and every time it happened it was a mangled mess that has taken me years to patch up…

I guess my point is mainly this, your heart is your greatest treasure, not your brilliance or your body, those things rust and wear out, learn to hang out with people who answer a heart question with a heart reply and not a brain fact…those are the people who have seen the ghosts up close., and maybe give the other folks some time to grow…eventually it will come to us all…we all have ghost stories we could tell…

On being a Dad

I remember it like it was yesterday, the call from the Principal…”Mr. Pixley we need you to come and get your daughter she is being suspended today”…it wasn’t the first time but it was the last mainly because it was the last year of the last child in public schools. I texted her, asked what she did, and headed over to the school…

The Principal and I respected one another, we didn’t always see eye to eye but I let him know I appreciated and supported him as a parent…so the conversation was short and sweet…

“Whad’she do?” I asked (already knowing the answer) “She called her teacher an asshole”…”Ok whats the punishment?” “She’s suspended for a day”…Ok…

“You know I am not going to punish her right? This is like a vacation to her…”

“Why not?” he asked…

“Because I agree with her, he is an asshole, he drew first blood by calling her a name in front of her peers, he lost his cool and he should not have”…

The Principal looked down and said…”I agree and he will be reprimanded, but we cannot have students calling teachers assholes”…I agreed, we shook hands and I left…

It was at this point I realised that my job as a parent was pretty much over…my kids could think for themselves, would not sit idly by while people abused power and were not afraid of the consequences…

At the graduation I had at least 4 teachers come up to me as happy as the kids graduating, all saying the same thing “I am so glad you don’t have anymore kids, the Pixleys gave us the biggest fits and I don’t think I could take another one”…

What they meant by that was my kids were not afraid to research and call out bs when they saw it…what they meant was “Your kids think for themselves and it’s hard to keep them in line with the rest of the herd”…

Later I would discover that they had not been buying into the BS theology I had raised them with…they “thought it through” and realised that if God was a Father he would love you no matter what, you would always be his kid and hell was some kind of confused illusion they no longer supported they did not have an answer but they knew it did not jive with the picture that Jesus portrayed of the Father…” They knew the tithes and offerings were a joke because they saw where most of it went, to the “ministry”…they knew the spiritual politics and the using of people was wrong…they simply did not buy into the evangelical schtick because…well they thought for themselves.

Over the last many years we have all had in-depth and profound discussions as I have finally grown up…we have taken a hard long look at the theology and have been honest about it…and that brings me to my second memory…the times I came home from being away and had to make dinner with only a bag of frozen tater tots and some bacon that they did not want to cook…mainly because I got home AFTER the one horse town had closed its store and they had not managed to cook for themselves. In those moments I discovered I could be a gourmet chef with a creative mind and tummys would be filled and well, really, all gourmet recipes probably start out of a creative necessity…that necessity truly is the Mother of invention…and in that I learned that I was never limited, not by the cupboard or the clock and that there’s no such thing as “no answer”…

I’ve watched that idea translate into kids who fear nothing…rear-ended in LA traffic, told they would not get to the car rental place in time, they take out a red crayon and a cooler lid  stop traffic defying the odds of crazy drivers, LA heat and stupid rental car policies, because they were parents now themselves and refused to believe the schtick of some sales rep or tow truck office and simply would not accept life on the terms it came at them, they loved their own kids to much to acquiesce.

My own natural father packed his suitcase and his guitar when he found out my mom was pregnant with me…that is the last time we saw him, and I never did…so maybe it was a desire to fight the genetic absentee trait that made me take my kids in the divorce and do my darndest to be there for them…THERE being in the Principals office or the hospital room, there being anything they needed that I have, be it time, money, hugs, or trinkets…

They are my friends now…and as I glance over our storied history of diapers and homecoming crowns, principals office as well as doctors offices, basketball courts and municipal courts, from Junior High to Juris Doctorate it was really me who has been learning the most…they’ve taught me who I was when I had no idea how to be anyone else.

Being a dad is the most exciting and humbling adventure I have ever been on…and I am more Christ-like because they have shown me what love is supposed to look like…

My own son has his first child, he was honestly the one I worried about the most, he was so “male”…but observing him laugh and cuddle and just adore his daughter even as he changes her poopy diapers…I know the torch has been passed on…because really that’s the main thing about being a dad…it trains you in the fine art of adoration.

Loving the Bible the way God loves it.

Old-Album

Suppose you came across an old family photo album entitled “humanity”…

In this photo album there were all kinds of photographs, some from very very long ago, even right at the beginning of when photography was actually created. As you glance through the photographs you would find pictures with captions on them, many dating back several thousands of years.

As a good student of photography and history you decide to take the album to several places to have it checked out, you take it to an antiques store and then to an arts store, later you take it to a museum of photography and allow the learned men there to analyse the pictures and the writings to see if it is authentic or a fake.

Glancing through the album of humanity you discover odd captions on some of the pictures, things like “Jesus Wrassles a bear”, and the picture is kind of blurry and smeared, still later in other sections you find captions that say things like “Jesus beating his negro slaves” or “Yeshua destroys his enemies with hailstones” and again the pictures are quite blurry and shadowy with no distinct character at the center, you’re not even sure which character is Jesus or Yeshua, many times the captions say things that do not relate at all to the picture itself, but there they sit in the timeline of the album.

As you flip through the album the pictures towards the end start showing a character named Jesus and the pictures many times are quite crisp, pictures of him healing many people, or arguing with religious leaders, there are pictures of his disciples and pictures of him teaching, in several sections there are pictures of his trial and execution all from different angles and camera’s, including black and white, and color, some in dark light some in pigmented light, some of the pictures are even abstract with captions like “Jesus cleanses the Temple” and the colors are sepia like the old fashion colors used by the photographs in the Amos and Hosea sections and the clothes and style even seem to be staged, like Jesus is play acting as one of the old prophets pictures.

There’s even one picture where Jesus is making vintage wine in a matter of moments at a wedding party.

Some of the pictures are underdeveloped, some are overdeveloped and there is way to much light. Some of the pictures have stains on them and block out part of the frame, many of the older ones have thumbs in them covering up parts of the main scene.

But as you go through the photo album of humanity it becomes clear that Jesus is the central character that humanity has been taking pictures of even though the captions mislabel him, all throughout history, each phase of photography reflects the style of the day, even the captions reflect the culture and habits of the people who took the pictures.

Many of the pictures are strange (like Jesus wrassles a bear) some sections are COMPLETELY staged as if the artist only had one lense and a few negative metal slides to use so the everything in the picture was set up beforehand rather than a natural event being captured (even though the caption implies a natural event).

The science folks and experts write a report and tell you, yes the pictures are from an authentic period in humanities development, but it is obvious the photographs were staged because that was the common practice of the era when they were taken, and all the clothing points to a certain style of “Artistica photographe” rules of light/stage/actors/setting/etc. They tell you the composition of the captions and ink are all similar to period photography from the Ur of Chaldees and Babylonian historical photography books, the use of light and staging to create a “natural” moment that is anything but natural was a common practice and they show you books where “Marduk wrassles a bear” and another where “Anu wrassles Tiamat” (From the book of Enuma Elish) the photographs shown are similar in lighting, composition and blurriness.

They also tell you about the captions and the way the people who took the pictures saw the photographs and even how they staged them in the frames of the book a certain way and order. In the report written by the handwriting experts they tell you that the captions are as authentic as any they have ever seen, all of them consistent with the handwriting styles of the era, they are quite amazed at how well preserved the album is.

As you ponder over the pictures it becomes clear that a story does in fact develop and it is the story of how humanity see’s Jesus, with the pictures near the end of the book being the clearest.

The pictures about loving your neighbor and the resurrection of all humanity in Jesus are in stark black and white, yet there are a series of pictures near the end where all of the photographs are staged again, and the style is reminsicant of “Jesus wrassles a bear” but the pictures are definitely Jesus it’s just the captions that are strange, like one where he is a little lamb with blood pouring out of his wounds but the title say “Jesus the Lion” and all of the pictures in the section entitled “Revelation” are staged in the old fashioned mode like before.

The experts at the arts store tell you that there is a rare level of artistic genius in several of the pictures, genius that is on a level beyond anything they have ever examined, the pictures at the beginning of sections show a similar genius at work even though the pictures are separated by many thousands of years of film quality and development tools. They want to know how is it possible that the same exact style of composition and light could be reproduced in an exact “natural” moment, they are stunned that all of the pictures are public domain and are not in a  museum somewhere.

Not all of the pictures are the same quality though…some are very bad polaroids and some are very fast high quality film paper, some are cheaply developed and some are exquisitely framed, a few of the pictures are old fashioned metal plate and some are actually hand drawn… many are signed and some are not.

There are pictures that suggest a different alternate reality, pictures that are confusing because they seem to be taken in a very strange environment, almost like a different planet where there are two suns in the sky, two moons, two earths and yet the experts all agree the pictures are authentic and have been taken right here on our earth because there are landmarks we know that are real, but the surreal landscape inside the photograph challenges your view of science, physics and life itself, and the experts all say the photo has not been tampered with, but because it is in the album where we know things were staged it is not to be taken seriously, but you wonder. Many of the captions on these alternate pictures say things like “The kingdom of God is within you” or “A new heaven and a new earth”.

At the end of the day you realise that you have an enormous treasure on your hands, it is both an evolution of humanities attempt to take a picture of Jesus but it also has some incredible pictures that seem to suggest He is in every selfie taken in our culture, that he is a very real person, but he can also be found in the rivers and oceans, the sunrise and sunset, but most of all in humanity itself.

It is a stunning book that shows you history, some strange costumes, and cultures and also a strange new world that is not visible to your natural eye but is apparently just as real as what you can see now.

It is art, it is poetry, it is history it is future technology, it is about Jesus and humanity, but thats not the strangest part about the album, as a matter of fact those details pale in comparison to what you have found…

See the really strange thing about the photo album is the pictures that you are in…this is why you took it to the experts in the first place and yes they have verified that the pictures are all authentic, that there has been no “photoshopping” or manipulating of the film but there you are right in the middle of many of the frames, some good some bad and you hope the experts don’t notice it’s you.

But there are favorites as well…

In the picture labelled “Abbas 1st grade class resurrection 30 AD” there you are in the front row missing your teeth from the baseball that hit you just like the pictures at home.

In the picture labelled “Love your neighbor as yourself” you can clearly see yourself wearing your favorite blue jean jacket from your freshman year at college, and it’s authentic.

Then there’s the picture of you getting healed of palsy, or delivered from alcohol or saved from depression and drugs, clearly you are in the photo completely healed even though in real life some of those troubles persist.

Authentic.

You are stunned that you are in so many of the pictures, even the execution picture your face is in the crowd screaming for blood…and the picture of Jesus being beaten and whipped, there’s your back, definitely it’s yours you recognize the curve of the spin and then the chiller is the picture of Jesus on the cross forgiving his persecutors…it’s your mouth asking the Father to forgive them…

The photo album seems to be magic…yet it is clearly not, it is simple pictures in a leather binding…and the experts all agree it’s not a fake but it’s just a big book of pictures.

But once you see yourself in it…you love it and this is exactly why the Father loves the bible, because it is a family album of his favorite kids, yes it’s about humanities search for pictures of Jesus but it’s also about you and I…who wouldn’t love that book?