Tag Archives: god

Park stories

“There’s something about white people,” Bull said as he sat down beside me on the stone wall overlooking the shopping gauntlet of the Saturday Green Market in Atlanta’s Piedmont Park, “they want everything.”

Bull’s given name is Tony and I’ve know him for three years. As one might suspect, Bull didn’t get his nickname for awkward moments in a china shop. In his mid-fifties, he’s affable, homeless and pretty much knows how to stay out of trouble with the homeless police*. Bull went on to tell me, while punctuating each phrase with a pause and a laugh, “You know, money’s no good for holding on to. It’s got to keep moving. That’s why they do it – always buying stuff.”

I had a decision to make. Do I patronize him by agreeing and just letting the conversation go silent, or do I give him the respect to answer him thoughtfully? I chose the latter and tried to tell him how some people had unimaginable amounts of money and how those people just wanted more and more of it.

Bull looked down, shook his head side to side and began speaking louder, as Bull does, when he seems to feel confused, “I don’t know about that…” Reaching down to pet my geriatric, hair-factory of a beagle, Bull rubbed too hard and the dog gave out a loud whelp as hounds do to embarrass their owners. “Your dog’s blind, right? No? Can’t hear? I know something’s wrong with her. Anyway, how’s your wife doing? I haven’t seen her in a while. You doing OK?”

While reassuring him that we were fine, Bull and I became sandwiched by other spouse watchers and waiters on the bench-hieght wall. The recent interlopers were sitting close enough to hear, but far enough away to observe. I wondered to myself if these newly arrived “social peers” were there for the shade, to judge Bull, or to judge us both. I often get feelings like this and know it comes from my mom’s lifelong and often conflicting curse of inferiority and her strong, but simple sense of right and wrong. As I’ve aged, my rational side knows well their decision to sit down had nothing to do with either of us. Most people, especially young people, are oblivious to the homeless.

Feeling the new eyes upon him, Bull then turned his questions to a safer subject, “Lee, tell me this, do you believe in Jesus and God?”

My turn to laugh awkwardly, “That’s two different questions, Bull.” If you are asking me if I believe in the historical figure of Jesus, whose followers, hundreds of years later, recounted wonderful and life-giving sermons and tales of what we are asked to believe of his life, sure. And if by God, you are asking if I believe that there is some powerful force in life greater and outside our lives that connects us all, I do.“

Hearing my ”I do“ and not processing the parsed phrases, Bull seemed reassured and said, while patting me on the shoulder, ”Good. Good. I don’t know why I thought you weren’t a believer. That’s good. God bless you.“

In the middle of it, my wife walked up with her market bag filled with gourds of every color and shape, ”Hello, Red,“ she said as she faced that moment every immune-surpressed Southerner fears – the requisitely polite handshake or hug from someone who lived on the street. Fortunately her bags prevented either.

”This is Bull,“ I said to her. ”Red is someone else entirely, though Red Bull is a very funny guess.“ Then sensing her dilemma, I offered, ”A fist bump is always appropriate.“ Watching a middle-aged white woman, never known for coordination, attempt to fist bump with arms filled with gourds, is great sport and a true test of my ability not to laugh at someone, but Terri’s always a good sport.

Able to easily multi-task while fist-bumping, Bull offered with a genuine smile, ”Hello, Miss Terri. Looks like you’re going to be doin’ some fine cooking. You going to cook any of that for me?“

”Maybe so, I’ve cooked for you before.“

”I remember,“ Bull said, ”you made me a birthday cake last year.“

I glanced at one the interlopers within earshot expecting an acknowledgement of her kindness – oblivious.

###

*A note on how to stay out of trouble with the homeless police: Keep moving. Don’t hang out in a group for long. Keep up with grooming and wear clean clothes. Stash your possessions during the day and don’t been seen carrying bags. Stay away from the types of people who might feel threatened (those alone or with children). Smile and mention God in your short conversations with strangers. Be polite. Never resist a police officer. And keep moving.

City police have an almost impossible job and I have nothing but respect for their efforts. Sworn to uphold the law, part of a team, at the whim of politics and every “taxpayer” they meet, they also owe it their own families to survive each day. I often hear complaints from homeless men of profiling and excess force – while it might seem true, most of what seems “profiling” are reaction to citizen complaints or inappropriate public behavior. Charges of excessive force are most often a situational reaction of drunkenness or rage. There are exceptions and there shouldn’t be.

Homelessness is terrible problem. I sincerely wish that giving money to someone panhandling was an answer. It isn’t. Often if makes things worse. If someone is hungry, give them food or directions to a shelter. Homelessness is a societal problem, an economic problem and a political problem. If you want to help the homeless, I encourage you to contact an organization in your community and help them.

Sermon on the stump

The Damnitudes:
Now when he saw the ratings, he went up on each of the networks and sat down. His disciples tuned in to him, and he began to teach them saying:

Damned are the poor and unemployed, for theirs is the kingdom of the street.
Damned are those who mourn, for they will be mocked.
Damned are the meek, for they will inherit the nothing, though it will be tax free.
Damned are those who hunger and thirst for leftedness, for they will suffer and starve.
Damned are the merciful, for they will be shown no mercy.
Damned are the pure in heart, for they will be blind to my truth.
Damned are the peacemakers, for they will be called cowards.
Damned are those who are persecuted because of leftedness, for theirs is the kingdom of MSNBC.
Damned are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Mourn and be sad, because great is my reward in Washington, for in the same way they persecuted their political opponents who were before you.

Crude Oil and Darkness
:
You are the crude oil of the Gulf. But if the crude oil loses its wellhead, how can it be made into gasoline again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by beach goers.

You are the darkness of the news cycle. A ghetto in the city can easily be ignored. Neither do people turn off their spot lights and security systems. Instead they turn them all on, and it gives light to everyone in their gated community. In the same way, let their light shine for them, that they may see only what they perceive as good deeds and praise their party on AM radio.

The Fulfillment of the Law:
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Constitution; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you what you think is the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in on nightly news, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of prime time. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of Reagan and the teachers of the constitution, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of the party.

Murder:
You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother will not be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Obama,’ is answerable. But anyone who says, Bush and Cheney’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be accuse your brother; then come and offer your gift.

Settle matters slowly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it during an election year while important issues are before Congress, or he may hand you over to the electorate, and the election may hand you over to the lobbyists, and you may finally have the money to subvert them all. I tell you the truth, you will not get their votes until you have paid the last penny.

Adultery:
You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has not committed adultery with her in his heart until it is on YouTube. If your right eye causes you to sin, call it your left eye and point at something else. It is better for them to lose one part of their body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut theirs off and throw it away. It is better for them to lose one part of their body than for your whole body to go into hell.

Divorce:
It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to come on Larry King, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery, which is fine.

Oaths
:
Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the party.’ But I tell you, swear to anything at all: either by heaven, claiming it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great political victory. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply let your ‘No’ be ‘No,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this, say it comes from the evil one.

An Eye for an Eye:
You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to Fox News, and say it was the left. And if someone wants to investigate you and make you tell the truth, let him have your lies as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, force him to go two miles. Take from the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to give you free trips and campaign contributions

Love for Enemies:
You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: hate your enemies and pray for vengeance for those who persecute you, that you may pretend to be sons of your party in heaven. Just say that He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and not the leftous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? All of it. Are not even the tax opponents doing that? And if you only greet your brothers, what are you doing in the Republican party? Do not even pagans do that? Be imperfect, therefore, as your heavenly party is perfect.

Giving to the Needy:
Be careful not to do your ‘acts of leftedness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from me in Washington.

So when you take away from the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, but make sure you do as the hypocrites do in the churches and on the streets, to be honored by voters. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you take from the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your taking may be in secret. Then your party, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Prayer:
And when you pray, be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the churches and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, do not go into your room, close the door and pray to your party, who is unseen. Then your party, who sees what is done in secret, will not reward you. And when you pray, do keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Be like them, for your party knows what you need before you ask him.

This, then, is how you should pray:
Our party in heaven, hallowed be our names, our kingdom come, our will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today their daily bread. Bailout our debts, but not as we also have charged 33% to our debtors. And lead us into temptation, but deliver us from being called the evil one. For if you forgive men when they sin against you, you really should join another party. But if you do not forgive men their sins, our party will forgive your sins.

Fasting:
When you fast, look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they will received their reward in full. But when you fast, put crude oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will be obvious to men that you are fasting, but to your party, who is unseen; and our party, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Treasures in Heaven:
Store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  Pretend to store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

The eye is the lamp of the body and looks good on TV. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

You can serve two masters or as many as you like. You can hate the one and love the other, or  be devoted to the one and despise the other. You can serve both the party and Money.

Do Not Worry:
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly party feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his political life?

And do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how the party clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the lobby firms, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ ‘Who would vote for me?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly party knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself and it will be really really hot. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Judging Others:
Judge, or you too will be judged. For in the no way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will not be measured to you.

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in a brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to a brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of his own eye, and then you won’t need to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.

Demand, Seek, Knock:
Demand and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a few dollars? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your party in heaven give good gifts to those who ask! So in everything, do to others what you would not have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Constitution.

The Narrow and Wide Gates:
Enter through the narrow gated community. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gated community and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

A Tree and Its Fruit
:
Watch out for true prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are really sheep. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is can be elected this fall. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

Not everyone who says to me, ‘party, party,’ will enter the kingdom of Washington, but only he who does the will of my party who is in Washington. Many will say to me on that day, ‘party, party, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

The Wise and Foolish Builders
:
Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a rich man who had his house built on hight ground on the rock overlooking the ocean. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because he could afford to have its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.

When He had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.

————

Author’s note: Apologies to the original author (Matthew, generally gets the credit) for my parody of this beautiful sermon epitomizing the moral teaching of Jesus. My intent was simply to remind us of these wonderful words and the perverse ways our politicians (and bloggers, including me) have chosen to distort them.

Giving God the benefit of the doubt

god2-sistine_chapelr Taking on faith that God is omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent. And that His or Her perfection and mercy are beyond our understanding, it seems like it might be a good idea these days to take a look at some trends that might just indicate His or Her current favorites and those that seem to be on a list for some form of punishment for Whatever reason. All time Favorites

  1. Tyrants, monarchs and unelected leaders.
  2. Oil companies.
  3. Utility companies.
  4. Pharmaceutical companies.
  5. Munitions companies.
  6. Political incumbents.
  7. Lobbyists and pundits.
  8. Highway construction companies.
  9. Factory farms and food commodity conglomerates.
  10. Junk food companies.
  11. Cable TV companies.
  12. Health care workers.
  13. Hollywood.
  14. Organized religion.
  15. The prison industry.

New to the Favorites List

  1. Barack Obama.
  2. Federal employees.
  3. Hybrid and alternative fuel cars.
  4. Health care researchers.
  5. Scientists.
  6. Apple Computer.
  7. Collection companies.
  8. Bankruptcy attorneys.
  9. Pawn brokers and pay check lenders.
  10. Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Up and coming

  1. Alternative energy companies.
  2. Pirates.
  3. Auditors.
  4. White collar crime investigators.

All time Non-Favorites

  1. The poor, the aged and the infirmed.
  2. Under- and uneducated.
  3. Unemployed.
  4. The addicted.
  5. Anyone in a single parent household.
  6. People exposed to toxic chemicals.
  7. People without clean water, food or shelter.
  8. People without access to basic health care.
  9. Anyone living in Africa not currently head of an oil producing country.
  10. Anyone living in Central or South America not engaged in the drug trafficking.
  11. Most everyone in Asia or SE Asia not working for American call centers.
  12. Anyone living in Eastern Europe not involved in organized crime.
  13. Those most likely to vote Democrat.
  14. House painters.
  15. Poets.
  16. Municipal workers.
  17. Teachers.
  18. Union workers.
  19. Textile workers.
  20. Those living in trailers and temporary housing.

New to the Non-Favorites List

  1. Investors, home owners and pensioners.
  2. Republican Party.
  3. Wall Street, except for short traders.
  4. Employee recruiters.
  5. Commercial and residential real estate industries.
  6. Bankers.
  7. Attorneys.
  8. Microsoft.
  9. Ponzi-schemers.
  10. Recycling industry.
  11. Peanuts.
  12. Fishing industry.
  13. Airline industry.
  14. Hospitality industry.
  15. Trucking and non-oil shipping companies.
  16. Newspaper industry and most media companies.
  17. Publishing industry.
  18. Auto industry.
  19. Printing industry.
  20. Construction industry.
  21. Anyone self-employed.
  22. Middle classers who have not yet declared bankruptcy.

Down and Going

  1. Clean coal industry.
  2. Domestic cigarette industry.
  3. People who live near sea level.
  4. E-bay.com.
  5. Well intended bloggers who use people’s sincere faith as a lead to provoke thought and discussion and include broad generalizations and labels to categorize groups without giving proper respect to the individual.

I leave you to draw your own conclusions, and, yes, it passes understanding that one can be on more than one list. Please share your comments and other trends that you have observed.