Wednesday, October 31, 2007

ailment as identity

Saturday night was another backyard BBQ at the Sanford’s, which will probably be the last as weather is getting cooler. It was Manuel’s birthday, but it wasn’t a big bash as he was driving to Mexico early in the morning. So only a handful of Sandford party regulars were there including my family and I.

Frieda’s close friend Gloria the Drunk Driver is one of the regulars. Gloria’s son Miguel was there, who I’ve heard a lot about but never met until now.

I have heard people refer to themselves as a “crazy-magnet”, as in: every crazy person they run across is attracted to them. I guess I’m kind of a crazy magnet too. And I don’t mind. But I’m more of a messed-up/desperate person magnet.

Miguel clung to me like Limbaugh on pain meds. He’s 40, lives with his mom the Drunk Driver, spent seven years in prison, and claims to have a real bad knee which keeps him from working the manual labor jobs he once knew well. He rambled on and on about his knee, especially after he asked me what I “did”, and I told him tree trimming.

This is what destroys me and makes me wonder if I’m not following the great commission: I believe in healing.

I really do. I believe as a Christ follower I am supposed to heal people. I am not a charismatic nut or a Benny Hinn fan. I don’t believe in big shows or slapping people in the forehead and making them fall or whatever.

But I do believe in healing folks. Whatever that means. Pray with/for them right then and there for a miracle, I guess.

This belief is partially because I myself am a product of the CEO’s healing power. I was diagnosed a depressive in the early ‘90s. After faith and much prayer I have been healed and off meds since October 1995.

When people like Miguel give me an ear full of medical woes, in a non-threatening way I try to ask something like, “do you wish this problem could be fixed forever?” And I mean this in a way to spur imagination. Like, hey – what would your life be like with out this ailment or whatever?

And amazingly enough, no one can ever answer this question. They dodge my inquiry and go on and on as if any kind of cure or healing is not an option.


To most people in our western culture, having some sort of physical ailment is their identity. It’s who they are. And they get kind of pissed if you suggest that their identity could be erased and they could become someone else.

I don’t understand how people flocked in masses to be healed by Jesus. Or how the shadow of the disciples could pass over ill and make them well.

Jesus must have started somewhere. Maybe it was being a consistent listening ear to the ills of others.

There must be a better tactic to my “ailment cure” inquiry. I can’t imagine people not dreaming of life without an injury or illness when they occur.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

tragedy on the local streets

Tragedy has hit the local homeless scene in the fair mother city. You can read about it here, and it's corresponding story here.

This act is not surprising. It's a well known fact that various gang initiations involve harming or even killing a person. And since homeless people are easy targets and crimes against them are rarely cared about or reported...

I think the national numbers reported in the story are way low, personally.

Nice to see that legendary homeless couple Sally and James made it in the local paper. I'm sure they don't care for the exposure. Damn media.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

evang-e-droppings #007

After an unintentional two-week break, I was back at the evang-e-dropping eradication operation. I was out of town two weeks ago and last week was too cold and windy for my head cold. This weekend I was flying solo (no family help), which is OK by me.

The local tract-passing crew has a new tract. It’s purple and a little larger than the standard business card.

To give them positive credit, this one isn’t ridiculous or judgmental like the demon head one. And it isn’t too corny like the popular DZHENOU one. Instead the new purple tract has like some doctoral dissertation type of explanation of why Jesus died on a Roman cross. It takes up both sides of the tract. It’s seems a little wordy.

I can’t imagine some half buzzed partier actually reading this tiny printed thesis. Maybe that’s why I found about 50 of them on the ground. But I guess I shouldn’t criticize this tract. I can’t think of a better way to express my faith in feeble words on a small card.

Maybe that’s why I don’t do tracts.

Anyway, I met a new homeless guy. His name is Jones. He was digging in the dumpster of the nightclub for aluminum cans. His operation was pretty slick.

He had a shopping cart and a broom. He’d throw out all of the cans he could find onto the street. Then he’d pick the cans up and put them in his cart. Afterwards, he’d pull his broom out and sweep up any mess that he created.

Most homeless people are assumed to be messy slobs. Truth is, they may not dress pretty, but most have dignified ways about them. Jones was no exception.

Jones only had one eye. And he wasn’t much of a talker as he had a schedule to keep. Some biker group on South Treadway leaves a bunch of beer cans every Saturday night. He was on his way to collect them.

CEO – I still don’t understand this tract eradication gig you got me doing. But I enjoy it, I guess. I just wonder if you’re using this as a means for me to gain relations with folks on the streets again after five years of being hidden.

Friday, October 26, 2007

more willy reflections

Sometimes I try to figure out why Willy’s death hits me harder and stays with me longer than the death of any other person in my life.

I think about death fairly often. I find that practice healthy as opposed to morbid.

Hopefully, by reminding myself of death I will value the “now” in life. This helps me love the ones I’m with in life. Sometimes, it helps me like the life I’m in. And occasionally, it helps me leave the computer or any other self gratifying isolationist gimmick and run around the house chasing my three year old son playing shoot the monkey*. Because, you know, maybe for some tragic reason, tomorrow we won’t get to play shoot the monkey ever again.

I think Willy’s death affected me because of the complete erasure of his life. He left this world with little physical evidence of having ever existed. He had no spouse. No children. No family other than his gay brother from Coleman, Texas who was dying of AIDS at the time (I wonder if he’s still alive. He had no phone so I don’t know how to get in touch with him). Willy left a meager handful of material possessions scattered in his apartment.

Willy walked the streets one day and was gone the next without a trace. The only evidence he had lived was our memories and a few photos I had taken.

Willy’s brother donated the body to science as he had no money to bury him with. There wouldn’t even had been a memorial service or obituary notice had the izzy group ministry not decided to do those.

Something about that...leaving no evidence of your life...leaves me broken.

But I guess that kind of death is good. In a way it’s very noble and humbling. Perhaps all of christ’s followers should strive for a death that does not reflect on self.

*This game requires one of these, the best toy ever invented. Ever. It’s a monkey with rubber bands in its arms and it screams on impact. We run around taking turns shooting each other with it. And I sing “shoot the monkey” to the tune of Peter Gabriel’s Shock the Monkey.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

6th year death anniversary

Hey Willy,

We lost you six years ago tonight. You jack ass.

A few weeks ago I swore I saw you at HEB. I did a double take anyway, even though I knew it couldn't be you. I drive by your old window daily.

I have a house now. And two kids. We're no longer with the izzy group ministry, which is a long story.

I still get that shortness of breath when I think of your passing. I only get that from your death and no one else. Like maybe it's hard to believe you are really gone. And that damn Willie Nelson song that was played at McDonalds the morning after your death. "You were always on my mind". Damn that song.

Your passing was the beginning of the end of an era in my life. It got me where I am now. Thanks.

what preachers aren't preaching #004

Does god want you to have good things? And what are good things?

Does god want you to have the best life? Right now? And what is that supposed to look like?

Many preachers preach some sort of version of a "health/wealth" message. I think this grew out of the charismatic movement from the 1970's. And I'm sure that movement came from christian faiths based in western countries.

Somehow, I can't see the handful of believers meeting secretly in a barren North Korean countryside preaching this message.

Why don't preachers preach "follow christ through death"? Or "we must die to everything to follow him"? And what do those mean?

Somehow, I believe god doesn't want you to be rich. And god doesn't want you to be poor.

God wants you. Period. Everything else must be moot point.

Do you have two cloaks? Share with the one who has none.

Do you have no cloak? Ask god to provide you with one somehow. I don't know.

...just random early morning thoughts on a rare day-off. But somehow I'm thinking: if god wants us to have "the best" as in "nice stuff, situations, life in general", then those persecuted christians in third world nations must not have got that message.

Silly third worlders...they must be taking that follow Jesus unto death stuff literally...

Monday, October 22, 2007

testimony #036: date night

Some of our parents are in town for a visit. They offered to watch our kids tonight and gave us cash to go out. A very rare treat.

Since our all time favorite dig Szechuan has been closed for over a year* for remodeling, and since my head cold could use something small portioned and ridiculously spicy, we went to our runner up - Ann's Thai Kitchen.

It was fun to be on a brief agent respite and date with Agent Wife.

Ann Thai must be the hangout for everyone in the fair mother city who doesn't fit into its religious, west Texas mold. There's not too many gathering places for local Europeans, art students, and lesbians.

Thanks CEO.

*what's up with that Chef Huang?!? Will your new place be opened in time for my peking duck birthday meal in January?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

name them one by one

Today was Agent Offspring #1's 3rd birthday. It was also Agent Wife's birthday.

We had a big kid party planned and somehow I managed to get word out about it being AW's day too, making it somewhat of a surprise party for her as well.

Despite my massive head cold, all was great. Usually when we throw a party of any kind, we invite the whole universe and only about 5 people show up. This time, the universe came.

It was weird but fun to see friends from all aspects of our life together in one back yard.

It's easy to whine and gripe when going through the daily blues. Then I pull away from my naval long enough to see that our life is really all right. And I wouldn't want it any other way.

Thank you CEO.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Momma T*

I have been reading the new and somewhat popular book “Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light” as edited by Brian Kolodiejchuk. It is primarily a book of compiled writings and communications of Mother Teresa and her various church superiors dating back to 1928.

This book was fairly popular media fodder because of the two or three chapters where Momma T expresses her “darkness” and overall doubts in everything. Or as I call it: the blues. Or the shit.

Go figure: she was human.

But what struck me far more than the darkness topic was her overall preparation for living and serving the poorest of the poor and its accompanying waiting period.

Admittedly, I know little about Catholicism other than the negative information my evangelical faith troupe taught me while growing up. But I developed an overly fair respect for Catholics a few years ago when I was involved with a ministerial contraband operation with a little catholic church on S. 8th and Jeanette Street. They were amazing. I still have no overt respect for church government or hierarchy in general. But my current view of Catholicism is: they can keep their religion, but I’ll back up the way they serve the poor any day.

Through this book, I learned that Momma T’s original assignment in Calcutta, India was that of a school teacher in which she served for 19 years. She had visited the Calcutta slums occasionally and built a relational heart for the poor over a period of years.

While on holiday in 1946, she received a vision from Jesus about her living amongst the poor slum dwellers and serving them as opposed to her teacher assignment. The next 2-3 years were months of begging and pleading with her superiors to start this new mission, despite their initial brush off, and discipline testing.

I know it was only 2 or 3 years before Momma T actually began the Missionaries of Charity that she became known for. But I imagine that period was hell. The waiting. The desire. The knowing that she heard the CEO in this, despite what her earthly commanders would allow of her.

And leaving her order of nuns to do this new mission was no small event. To leave the “loreto” nuns (a specific order of nun, I think), Momma T had to renounce vows made 19 years earlier. Which is the equivalent of getting a divorce. It was a big deal.

I think this book showed me clearly that sometimes following the CEO’s call means completely blowing apart man’s system of religion and that a waiting period is always part of that game. Always.

*this nickname was borrowed from one Shane Claiborne

Sunday, October 14, 2007

the branding

Next month will be the 10-month anniversary of my branding.

Excuse my vagueness on this subject. Specifics may reveal my identity. But it’s a briefly worded branding upon my arm that was supposed to remind me daily of killing off any self-centered desires of mine.

Or, at least, that’s what I think it means.

In November 1997 this branding was a hot topic. And how could it not be? The professional had to shave the area in order to brand properly. Plus, a fresh branding is real bright and shiny for days. It was physically obvious and attracted much attention that I wasn’t looking for.

People often looked at it and asked what it meant. I often rattled off some words of Jesus found in John 12 about “a kernel of wheat must fall to the ground and die before life can spring from it” or something religious-sounding jumble like that. Hey, this is the fair mother city. You can get away with saying stuff like that and people think you’re cool and dangerous.

Then I noticed that my branding was immortalizing me in the eyes of some as a “cool christian”. You know, like those christian-rock star types with cool hair and tattoos. Or maybe the offspring of Jim and the late Tammy Faye. You know, they may look like cool, artsy hell’s angels, but really they’re just safe and religious. They’re “cool christians”. I didn’t want to be one of those.

Few people ask me what my branding means anymore. And that’s good, because honestly, I don’t even know what it means anymore.

So the other night in East Texas, I was with some obscure relatives of mine the night before a family reunion. And an aunt of mine I haven’t seen in like 20 years sees my arm while we sat in a restaurant. She’s not particularly faith-oriented or religious that I know of. And that’s always fine with me.

So she asks, “what’s that on your arm mean?”, expecting a quick, flippant answer. Or, that's how I interpreted her query.

So I answer, “I have no clue what it means” and allowed the subject to change. Honestly, I don’t know what it means anymore. The meaning seems to change daily.

In recent years I’ve wondered if my decision to be branded with these words was youthful arrogance. Like maybe I had everything all figured out. But if I remember correctly, my reasons in 1997 were about exploring. I wanted to know what it meant. And if I woke up seeing it every day then maybe I’d eventually learn its definition.

And back then I swore I heard the voice of the CEO say that these words were “to be put on you”. So like a dumb-ass, I took it literally.

All that to say, it’s been 10 years and I still have no freaking clue what my arm means.

Meanwhile, did I miss a chance to share something deep with an aunt I know little about? Maybe. But we were in a crowded diner with nine people at a table.

And I feel really awkward about sharing Jesus and, I don’t a flippant, drive-by way in close quarters over diner grub. Oh well.

CEO – give me better responses to questions over this branding.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

iron sharpens iron

Sometimes we need another human to point out the blatantly obvious in our lives.

As of late, I have been working with Jack on some rental houses. The owner wants them fixed up to sell. The work is easy and I find it enjoyable, but it's frustrating because we are expected to do things I wouldn't normally do if left to my own opinions and devices.

We're basically white-washing everything and covering up the ugly. No overly pro work done here.

So anyway, sometimes amidst the mundane that is flat white paint, Jack and I ramble on about this or that. And today I ask his opinion about if he thinks the CEO of the universe is trying to show me something in my weird collection of income these days.

I mean, I'm working a lot. Sometimes full days: mornings on the pruning boy gig and afternoons with Jack. And yet I feel like I'm laboring in vein because my wife's and my monthly income only comes to half of our monthly needs. And our needs really ain't that big.

I'm working my butt off and we still ain't cutting it. But somehow, the CEO provides just fine month to month.

So Jack asks how long have I been out of college. "13 years".

"How many of those years have you worked full time in a regular job?"


"So basically, you can't see that the CEO has taken care of you 8 of the last 13 years?"

Hot damn. I never thought of that. Thanks!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

evang-e-droppings #006

The Evang-e-droppings Eradication Operation is proving to be an ulterior operation of the CEO to expose the ills of my heart and mind.

The operation itself is fairly uneventful. This weekend we collected an average number of 33 tracts. Last week was 22. I blame the low numbers on the wind. Nice to know that those guilt inflicting devices are now littering some other block in the fair mother city.

Meanwhile, in recent weeks I shifted our operation to a time of day different from when this deal started two months ago. This new time was better for my family and I.

This new earlier time happens to be when several local homeless folks pass through the area. We ran into Little Wing again. We exchanged pleasantries and I introduced him to my wife and daughter as he was passing through en route to the Salvation Army. But then I later saw him alone on a secluded curb with a cigarette.

Over the years, I’ve seen examples of the poverty class being uncomfortable by the middle class. Which is usually true the other way around. I wondered if Little Wing had made up an excuse to not have to converse with Agent Wife and myself for long. Or maybe he really wanted to be left alone. Either way, I can relate.

Then we ran into Mack near his usual set of benches. I finally discovered who Mack was. He’s the uncle of Agent Wife’s young friend Princess (the incarcerated teen). The poverty culture in the fair mother city is fairly inbred. In more ways than one.

Mack’s a talker. And he’ll go on and on about how everyone on earth and his family all have problems, but makes himself sound like he’s got it all together. Even Stevie Wonder could see how that’s a crock: Mack’s homeless. People on the streets are almost always there due to some major issue in their life.

As he’s rambling on about how great he is, how Princess is messed up, how he’s the best parent his teen girls have ever had, and how he refuses to work for $6 an hour ($10, maybe) I’m thinking, “So is that why you’re on the streets? Because you’re a stellar father? And you’re worth a better wage? And everybody’s messed up but you?”. But I kept my mouth shut.

I hated going home knowing what I was thinking in my head.

Really, how am I any better than Mack?

What separates me from the Macks in our world?

Friday, October 05, 2007

sometimes, faith can suck #002

Most don’t really think about the freakish faith antics in that which is Noah’s Ark.

Just the word’s “Noah” and “ark” conjures up Hallmark-ish mental images of boats, rainbows, and smiling cartoon animals. That’s really weird.

It’s probably the one tale in The Book that is openly accepted in the realm of non-believers. I’ve seen greeting cards, posters, and various room decor with happy-go-lucky images of a smiling old guy on a boat with animals – often sold in places that are not particularly “christian stores”.

Noah is like a Disney character or something.

My daughter turned one last summer. At her birthday party a neighbor gave her, get this, a “Noah’s Ark Playset”...from Wal-Mart. Yup. Noah is a mere action figure at my house. Complete with an unrealistic boat. And smiley-faced animals.

And thank god Wal-Mart left out that post-flood scene of Noah drunk and naked in the tent.

I’m still waiting for “The Ezekiel Playset”, with the fire-cooking dung feature.

For some weird reason, I recently read this story. As best as I could, I read it keeping the Saturday morning cartoon Noah out of my head as much as possible. I even tried to avoid the thoughts that plagued me in my youth: the logistics of gathering every freaking animal in the world and caring for them on a boat for a year. That’s really weird.

Instead, I wondered when the CEO told him, “build an ark”...I wonder what that was like. I mean, HEARING the CEO. Was it a real audible command that no one could mistake or ignore? Was the CEO standing in front of him in 3D physical form, pointing and instructing? Or was it more like how I sometimes think I hear the CEO: some vague, weird-ass thought that came in my head.

And to follow through with the massive task that was unexplainably weird: building a football field-sized boat in the middle of the desert when it hasn’t rained in forever.

What’s that like? Was Noah happy and excited when it finally rained because he realized it wasn’t voices in his head, it really WAS god? Meanwhile, all his friends were drowning and screaming.

Thinking you heard the CEO tell you to do something that is laughable and makes no sense to the surrounding world, then acting upon it and sticking it out for years...

What’s that like?

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

sometimes, faith can suck

I have read all over the blogosphere about this new Mother Teresa book and it’s revelation that she was, heaven forbid, human. As in, maybe she was not the super god chick we all thought. Get this...she actually wrote in some 1950’s era journals about some doubts she had in her faith and so forth.

Wow. I didn’t know Mamma T was emergent? I wonder if she drank micro brews and said ‘fuck’ too.

I have yet to read this Mother Teresa book, but I can’t wait. Maybe our local library has that one.

As usual, every four to six months I seek out new writings on my hero Uncle George. I go through faith crises more often than that, but reading up on George Muller two or three times a year boosts my hope that maybe there is something beyond this wilderness era of mine other than tree trimming, odd jobbing, identity searching and praying or whining for all provision.

The library at my local alumni university (that I hope to have all of my personal information eliminated from someday...please, let me fade away into relative obscurity) has half a dozen or so books on Uncle George. This latest one I’m reading by Basil Miller, “George Muller: Man of Faith” could be kin to the new Mother Teresa book. It is revealed that Uncle George was indeed human

Perhaps all of the other Uncle George tales I have absorbed were easy to ignore his actual trials, since his faith oriented outcomes seemed so extraordinary in print.

Basil Miller starts off chapter XI: Trials By Faith with, “The building of Mr. Muller’s spiritual life was a constant conflict. While outwardly he displayed a calm attitude toward circumstances, inwardly he battled to obtain this inner peace”.

It goes on to explain that the man who prayed for every provision for himself and thousands of orphans actually went through hell in the waiting for his prayers to be answered. Often he wondered if he was doing the right thing in life.

Go figure. He wasn’t a Billy Bible Guy with all the answers.

I currently wish to obtain this outward calm attitude while I strive for “scarcely a tremor” inwardly (p. 87, “GM: Delighted in God” by Roger Steer).

Monday, October 01, 2007

I have nothing to report

This waste of a post states that there is nothing to report.

Working full days with a mix of Son & Dad, Jack, and whatever else pops up.

Enduring mild sinus issues. There is yet a September/October in the fair mother city that I have been able to fully enjoy. But it's mild, so all is well.

Meanwhile, if you're interested in some of the best in faith-related cynicism (cynicism...not a fruit of the spirit. But too funny to avoid), click here.

Over and out.