if you know me well, you’re aware that i don’t dance, deplore karaoke and absolutely refuse to dress up for halloween. i don’t hate people who participate in these activities, but have little interest in sharing such experiences. i figure that i make enough of an ass out of myself by constantly interjecting opinions and liberally spewing sarcastic commentary. i don’t need to further offend the world with yet another piss poor rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody.
but, on occasion, i have participated in incredibly foolish, exhibitionist activities such as drunken skinny dipping in the seminary pool and participating in the last ride of the bishop kelley butt pirates. i remember the former experience fondly and do not harbor any regrets. but I count the latter experience was one of the finest of my high school years.
on a warm, may afternoon in the year 1995 i stripped down to BVDs, wrapped a black patch around my left eye, picked up a super soaker filled with various ingredients and mounted my eight year old huffy. in the moments before the raid on sunny, rain soaked bishop kelley campus, i trembled with fear. but when blaine, our swash buckling, g-string swaddled, fearless leader, lifted his sword i eagerly joined in the charge.
over the next five glorious minutes i upended unwitting freshmen as well as their books, was violently dismounted by a burly, neolithic junior and, in a moment of daring and bravado that is still eagerly recounted by the pirates who have followed, completely douched brother richard by skidding my bike and hurtling my body into a full, foul puddle of water. our last ride was so dashing, daring and hopelessly homoerotic that i am finding it hard to reduce it to words.
last night, adrift in a sea of sleep, i recounted our glorious ride. i reflected fondly upon torturing freshman, spraying the school debutantes with my own piss and briefly dethroning brother richard. when i awoke, i was filled with pride concerning the butt pirate’s last ride and felt emboldened to make a fool of myself once again.
so i’ve really been in the shit lately. occupational angst and transitions in my personal life have left me in a precarious and uncertain place. i’m constantly fumbling with questions such as:
why can’t you find contentment in serving Christ at the SS? is massaging your own ego keeping you from appreciating God’s provision?
what’s keeping you from investing your days in something more meaningful? is education your hindrance or insecurity? will this wound i received from a former mentor and friend ever heal?
but the question that’s really cooked my noodle is “why don’t you stop trying to build an institution and start truly following Jesus?” of course, this question has led to a host of additional questions about whether my inclination to build a church is really, at some subtle level, an attempt to evade some of the more stringent demands of discipleship. for instance, i find it far easier to sit and muse about the mission of our church and how we can support and share the mission of other churches than i find it to listen carefully to, and thereby love, my difficult co-worker. in addition, i suspect that setting my sights on and sometimes lusting for ministerial success is a means of reducing the exceedingly, abundantly incredible demands of Jesus (“be ye perfect,” anyone?) to a more manageable size.
so that’s where i’m at. i’m not begging for tea and sympathy, much less inquiring for answers. i just wanted to let you know where i’m at.
now you’ve scene it! with rear-entry gentry and kevin smith clark
while out on vacation kellie and I had the pleasure of watching grizzly man with kevin and amy clark. grizzly man recounts the journeys of tim treadwell, a burned out hippie, failed actor and erstwhile medieval times character who fell in love with alaskan grizzly bears and so spent the last fourteen years of his life living among these magnificent creatures and advocating on their behalf.
i was transfixed by timothy’s passionate idealism, for in a way he reminded me a little of saint francis, the self proclaimed “jongleur de dieu” or juggler of God who was not afraid to make a fool of himself as he fulfilled his purpose in life. as foolish as some of timothy’s decisions were – i.e., walking among and talking to ferocious bears he personified with nicknames like “mr. chocolate” and “baubles” – I could not help but respect his willingness to pursue his passion at all costs. fortunately, i was also transfixed by timothy’s ability to scale the heights of unintentional comedy. The autobiographical videos he left behind record such comedic jewels as: his musings on why life would have been so much easier if I was gay (actual excerpt: “I've always wished I was gay, it would have been a lot easier. You know, it's just Bing! Bing! Bing! - gay guys, no problem. They go to restrooms and truck stops and perform sex, it's like so easy for them and stuff.”), his weeping over the beauty of a red fox and blubbering “you, you are the star of all the children!,” his passionate exploration of a pile of bear shit (at which time he said something like “it’s so warm! Look at it! it was just inside mr. chocolate!”) and his profound theological musings (actual text: “I want rain. I want, if there's a God, to kick some ass down here. Let's have some water! Jesus boy! Let's have some water! Christ man or Allah or Hindu floaty thing! Let's have some fucking water for these animals!”).
i recall that on one occasion during preaching class, dr. sackett said that “if you’re not an interesting person, you will never be an interesting preacher.” well, timothy was an interesting, passionate person and a world class unintentional comedian. i think you will find grizzly man oddly fascinating, overwhelmingly funny and unexpectedly touching.
As I get older, my appreciation for documentaries increases. From the heart-wrenching (Sound and Fury) to the bizarre (Dancing Outlaw), I've found several that I would view multiple times before entertaining any more feel-good dreck from Ron Howard (especially A Beautiful Mind...which is just a step above dogshit). I found another gem in Grizzly Man. I agree with my brother, Jeff, about its ability to make you laugh ("Downy is hungry! Tabitha is hungry! Melissa is eating her babies!!"), wince, and marvel at one man's passion.
I asked myself, "Where is the line between passion and madness?" Treadwell had a geniune love for these animals, and I think he thought he was doing the right thing. But, through Herzog's presentation, he was unable to function outside of this environment. He would complain about his lovelife, but failed to notice that few women would be attracted to this dangerous lifestyle. And the one that was (Amy) lost her life as well.
Bottom line: there's a reason man should not interact with bears the way Treadwell did. I disagree with Herzog, who said that the underlying current to the universe is chaos. It's very much rooted in order, the way it was designed. Though these bears would sniff at Treadwell in a curious sense, there's always the chance they would snap/attack/defend. Even domestic animals, like dogs, will snap and attack, sometimes kill, humans. We weren't designed to have fellowship with bears, nor they with us. I can't lament Treadwell for his choices. I, like Jeff, can appreciate his passion, but I cannot and will not condone his behavior. He's not a humanitarian. He's not Dianne Fossey. He's not Jacques Cousteau. Hell, he's not even Steve Zissou. He's a man who proved what these bears have been trying to communicate for a long time: leave us alone.
It's a fascinating watch, and a reminder that though we are first among His creation, we are not exempt from the laws He set to govern it.
and now, for the denouement
we enthusiastically give grizzly man two thumbs up, way up (the ass).
But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you
Last night I felt what I thought was the prompting of your Spirit. As a result, I spoke in a manner that appeared to be prophetic, proclaimed that you were leading our friends out of bondage and spoke of you as a cloud by day and a fire by night and implored the community to follow you and refuse to fear those who had driven them out. My word was equal parts encouragement and condemnation. I called our friends to look up towards your presence and boasted that our enemies should look out.
Then Rennie spoke.
She urged us not to harden our hearts in hatred and prayed for those who persecuted her community. She implored you to grant wisdom and guidance to those who have gone so ridiculously astray and as a result have deeply wounded many.
I tried to emulate the prophets, expounding upon your glory and denouncing those whose works appear to blight it.
But Rennie emulated Jesus. She incarnated his command to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. She steered clear of judgment, which belongs to you alone, by choosing to act in love.
I hope that my friends follow Rennie and take my presumptuous “prophecy” with a grain of salt. I am constantly amazed by how often those who seek to lead in this upside down Kingdom of yours are those who most desperately need to be led.
pastor phil wyman of the gathering, which is a sister community of sinners and saints and was, until the recent inquisition, a four square gospel church, would like to share a few words.
Krishna, Hospital Visits, Preachers, and Dictionaries for France
I don't like places which have too many things happening at the same time. It makes my brain slow down. When my brain goes slow, my body goes slow too. What is even worse is when I am in a place with too many things, and big words I don't understand. When that happens it is like when my wife asks me to do more than one thing at the same time. I have to ask her to put it on a list, because a list is just one thing, and I can do a list, because it is one thing.
Last week my son went to the hospital. His name is Elijah, and I don't have any other sons - or daughters either. Some people have more than one, but like God I only have one.
I don't like hospitals when someone in my family is in them, because they are busy, and in hospitals people say things I don't understand. Then my brain goes slow, and so does my body. Somebody should do something to make hospitals easier. I think that there should be a hospital dictionary, like the dictionaries for people who go on vacation to France.
This is how Elijah got to the hospital: Elijah's left eye became blurry in the peripheral vision, over the course of a day or two. The peripheral vision is that place on the side which you can't really look at, because once you try to look at it, it isn't on the side any more. Apparently, when your peripheral vision gets blurry suddenly your eye is telling you that something is wrong, like when the airplane on the way to France makes a strange new noise.
Elijah called his friend Jim Trick. Jim is a another musician, a preacher, and an optometrist. That's a lot of different things to be. I wonder if Jim goes slow in a hospital like I do. I don't think so, because he can do all those smart things. Elijah is a musician too, but he's not a preacher, or an optometrist. I am a musician, and a preacher too, but I'm not an optometrist either. Maybe if I was an optometrist I'd like hospitals better, because they would make sense to me, and I would be someone who could do many things at once.
Being a musician and a preacher is not really very different. They both get up in front of people and talk, and sing about stuff. The musician can sing about any kind of stuff, but the preacher only has to talk about God stuff, so he doesn't have to be as smart. He only talks about one thing. Then again God is a big thing to talk about, so maybe we have to be a little smart about one big thing.
Jim Trick sent Elijah to a Doctor. The Doctor was very nice, and saw Elijah that same day even though he was busy. He looked at Elijah's eyes. He said that Elijah needed to go to the emergency room at the hospital.
The Doctor's name is Krishna Gaddipati. He is Indian - from India, not from a reservation in America. He is an opthamologist. Opthamologists go to school for a long time to learn to look at eyes. So he is smart, and probably doesn't go slow in hospitals, because he does surgery on people's eyes, and he probably doesn't need a dictionary for the words. He probably knows them all by heart.
Elijah went to the emergency room, just like Dr. Krishna said. They checked his blood pressure. They told Elijah's wife Rhonda to fill out the paperwork for him, and they took Elijah back into the emergency ward.
Elijah did not have to wait to be helped by the doctors. No waiting is usually good, but now I know that it's not always good at the emergency ward.
Elijah's blood pressure was 209 over 125. People have strokes when their blood pressure is 209 over 125. When they write out the blood pressure it looks like this... 209/125 mmHg. MmHg is millimeters of mercury. The hospital used to use a machine called a sphygmomanometer, but that was a long time ago. Mercury would rise by millimeters in a long thin tube to tell how strong someone's blood pressure was. Today they use electronic devices and blood pressure cuffs with no long, thin mercury tubes. But I had to read about that after the visit to the hospital.
Elijah was sitting in a little room with three walls, and a curtain for another wall, but the curtain was open. Doctors and nurses came in and went out. There were needles, and Elijah got shots. There were IVs in his right arm. IVs are intravenous tubes which medicine is sent through. Little things called sensors were placed all over his chest. The little sensors were connected to the machine which said "beep, beep, beep...," and made the wavy lines which tell you if your heart is beating properly. There were doctors saying they were very concerned. They said that young men Elijah's age should not be having problems like this, especially if they don't smoke, drink too much alcohol, or take drugs. Elijah is 21, and he doesn't do those things, so they didn't know what was wrong.
It is not good when the Doctors don't know what is wrong.
Elijah did not know what was happening. Rhonda not did understand what was happening either. So Rhonda called Bev on the phone. Bev is my wife. Bev is a Dental Hygienist. Bev is like Jim Trick. She can do a lot of things. She can play the flute, preach, and do Dental Hygiene too. Playing the flute is not like preaching, because you don't talk, or sing when you do it, and Dental Hygiene is like a hospital kind of thing, except you never have to stay for five days to get it done, but you do have to know big hospital words. So I think that Bev is more comfortable in a hospital than I am. Bev told Rhonda, "I don't clean people's teeth when their blood pressure is 209 over 125." Rhonda cried.
Rhonda cried because she began to understand a little bit. Elijah was not doing well. He was very sick, and this was strange. It was strange, because Elijah looked and acted healthy. The only things wrong were that he had headaches, and blurry vision in the part of his left eye which you can't see when you are trying to look straight at it, and his blood pressure was 209/125 mmHg.
209 is the systolic pressure. Systole is when the left ventricle of the heart pumps and makes the most pressure on the blood vessels. The word systolic comes from systole. A ventricle is one of the little rooms in the heart, but it is not one of the rooms which preachers talk about when they say that we try to keep God from certain rooms in our hearts. The ventricle is just a place for the blood to go in, and then to get pumped back out, and I don't think that we can pump God out. The left ventricle pushed hard enough to rupture some blood vessels in Elijah's eyes, and that's why Dr. Krishna sent Elijah to the hospital. Dr. Krishna knew something was wrong with Elijah's blood pressure. He knew that Elijah could have lost his eyesight permanently, or had a stroke, or any number of other bad things which happen when your blood pressure is 209/125 mmHg.
Rhonda filled out paperwork while Elijah had needles, and IVs put in has arm. The hospital was a new place to Rhonda. But not a new exciting place. Some new places are fun. This was not one of those fun, new places. It didn't have a dictionary.
We came to see Rhonda a little bit after Elijah went back into the emergency ward. The hospital was not an exciting new place to us either.
It took a long time for the doctors to bring Elijah's blood pressure down. It was three days later, and then the blood pressure was 120/55 mmHg. That is a normal level, but it only stayed normal when Elijah took pills for his blood pressure. We prayed really hard on the day it went down to 120 over 55. Maybe Jesus heard us, and helped the doctors. Doctors need help from Jesus.
They don't always know what is wrong, but Jesus always knows those things. Maybe Doctors have slow brains in the hospital sometimes too, and that's why preachers like me need to go to the hospital and pray for them.
After five days Elijah was able to go home. That was two days ago. The doctors still don't know what is wrong with Elijah. There will be more tests, and more needles.
In a couple days I think that I'll be better, but right now I'm still going slow in my head. I don't think that I will need needles, or IVs, and that is good, because I think that would make my brain go even slower. My brain should go back to normal on its own.
We are all very thankful for Dr. Krishna, but it is funny that his name is Krishna. I am a Christian, and I believe in Jesus. I don't believe in Krishna. Krishna is a Hindu god, and I am not a Hindu, but the doctor's name is Krishna, and he is not the Hindu god. He is just a good doctor who helped save my son, and only his name is Krishna.
A few months ago I sat in a room with other preachers. They told me that I was not being a good preacher. They said things which were not true, and said that I was aberrant. Aberrant is what someone calls you if they think that your teachings about Christianity are wrong, but they didn't know my teachings. They were only guessing, and they made things up about me. I still don't know why they made things up, and so my brain went slow for a little while then too.
That meeting was like the hospital. It was not a fun, new place, and people were saying things which I didn't understand. I didn't need a dictionary like the ones which people get when they go to France, because I understood the words, but I did not understand why they said the words they were saying, because I thought that preachers were supposed to say true words, and they were not saying true words about me.
I think that these same people might not understand when I say that Krishna saved my son's life. They might think that I am a Hindu, but I am not a Hindu. I am a Christian, and I know that Jesus saved my son's life, but Jesus used a Doctor named Krishna to help.
I think that it is funny that a Doctor named Krishna helped save my son, but I know that there are some people who aren't funny people, and they wouldn't understand. Maybe they need a dictionary to learn how to be funny, like the dictionaries which people get when they go to France. Maybe someday I'll write a dictionary to help people learn to be funny, but that will have to wait till my brain gets back to normal, and I am not thinking so slow.
i am a thirtysomething worker bee who hails from massachusetts. by day i find jobs for individuals with significant disabilities and by night i spend time with my pixie-like wife and share life with my friends at the gathering in salem. my deepest passions are following Jesus Christ, extending God's compassion to the poor and obsessing about the Saint Louis Cardinals.