jesus outed submitted to Kindle and Amazon. Exhausted.
Now I have to: 1) figure out how to get my windows 8.1 computer to stop giving me extra keystrokes; 2) how to get review copies of the book to the right people; 3) how to do another video for Kickstarter so I can drum up some interest to get dough (not for me but for print ccopies (see?) so I can get books in people’s hands) and 4) actually shower and finally fold and put away my laundry.
Let me share something with you. At some point, about two weeks ago (12-14 hour days, six days a week) I gave up on making any money for myself on this venture. About seven days ago I realized I was exhausted and that I love this book and want people read it because it is so full of Jesus, or if not, it takes you right up to the door. Then three days ago I realized I would give every dime to buy as many copies to put in the right hands to disperse it so I can move on. I feel a real responsibility. I also hoped I would be able to move on…kind of like now…a bit, and write about other things, because I have been staring at the same 150 pages for six weeks solid.
You might think I would hate those pages after six weeks, or think they were the best thing since Walker Percy. Neither apply at all.
It’s well written, fresh and good. That’s all. They are definitely me.
Historically, Jesus’ crib was in fact literally a “feeding trough” in an old cold barn, warmed only by the family, and later, some shepherds. Oh, and there was also probably a lot of livestock, so there was also the warmth and smell of their methane creating defecations (the beginnings of “Global Barn Warming”).
So as I contemplated these events, it had never dawned upon me that I would have my own Jesus crib stolen.
As an Internet researcher and journalist, my curiosity drove me to do some digging; so I searched for news of other crèche-related events…Omigod! Here is just how pervasive the global crèche crisis had become that year. In London, at Madame Tussauds wax museum, the “Joseph” (David) and his wife “Mary” (Victoria, otherwise known as the “Posh” Spice Girl) wax figures were attacked by a man offended by their attempts to look after the baby Jesus in his crib. It was rumored that the attacker tried to abscond with one of the waxened Holy Family in order to start a small mail order candle business, but he has not yet been apprehended.
Fortunately, Real Madrid star defender Walter Samuel, who just happened to be touring the museum at the time, was able to successfully deflect all of the following attempts to score on the Holy Beckhams.
“It was just second-nature,” Samuel said later.
In harmony with the star thematic renditions of the Tussaud exhibit, the baby Jesus was a simple wax rendition of “Mini-Me”.
As I continued to search I found all manner of bizarre world-wide crèche events.
In Naples, 32 chefs decided to construct a huge nativity scene entirely out of chocolate. It took them 4500 hours to construct the 7,250 pound nativity scene. The baby Jesus was made of white chocolate despite his likely brown-skinned Middle Eastern ethnicity. This crib also sported celebrity figures that watched over the delectable chocolate Jesus. That year the babe in the manger was surrounded by chocolate renditions of Dubya and Osama bin Laden.
I have questions about all of this.
First, after the Beckham incident in London I really fear for the baby Jesus. I mean some fanatic is gonna get past the guards and eat him (no doubt citing a literal biblical reference in his defense later). And if not, what do they do after Christmas is over? Do they melt the King of Kings down and make smaller white chocolate Jesus bars? (I do not have any problem with them melting down Dubya or Bin Laden…it would have solved a lot of the world’s problems at the time.)
But what’s with the three wise men being in the scene at all? If you read the historical texts they come days later to a different house with their gifts. WTF (farce)?
I guess it ups the price of the collectible scenes to have more figurines.
But if so, why not go all the way and add other significant figures to the story? Why not have a King Herod figure lurking in the background? Where is the Innkeeper and his family? It’s not his fault that all the rooms were taken! It was “Census” time for God’s sake! At least he found some safe space for them to have the birthing! He probably didn’t even charge them full rate. He deserves to get in doesn’t he?
I was playing superheroes with son Thomas, who was 4 at the time, and I had some really good ones on my side: Dr. Doom, Kang, Baron Zemo, the Hobgoblin…vintage Secret Wars action figures. Even the Doc Ock had all his tentacles. My son had Captain America, Spidey, Daredevil and Ironman, and at one point he stood up and protested “Hey I earned you!”
What do you mean?” I asked. “Like you beat my guy and now you own him or something?”
“No! I earned you!”
“So what now, you just think you won the whole match and you own it. Is that what you mean by “earning?” That you have earned it like a prize?!”
“No!” the usually soft-spoken tike said more loudly. Then looking at me like I was thick-headed pole he said “Urrrned! Like… (and he stretched his arm out straight like Ironman’s to demonstrate) “Uuuuuuuurrrrrrnnnnnn!”
I got it. (Then started laughing).
But we don’t. Since at least 62 A.D., the two main enemies of Jesus’ message of grace have been the same two: Legalism or Gnosticism of one virulent strain or another. One tries to earn God’s favor via personal righteousness; the other spiritual control via a superior “gnosis” or knowledge.
It’s like a screwed up factory default so ingrained in us we cannot even see it. When we get scared or angry we snap back to the defaults. It’s costly.
Two facts: we all die; and we want resurrection. The latter is on God’s terms, which is grace. So you can try and “earn” it all day long (and probably do) but maybe the real question is ” is God just “Uuuuuurning you” in the meantime?
[We come into our excerpted story part way where Jesus is talking to a guy in his head way up in the third tier trying to convince him to help rescue him. He’s been locked up in a utility closet on tier two.]
…..”Are you here?”
“Of course I am here,” came the reply in my head.
“That you really…in my head?”
“Well I’m a bit indisposed right now, but who else would it be?”
“Well, you know what they say…”
“What, that you are crazy? Hehe”
“No, the other thingy…bad guy.”
“Oh he cannot hear your thoughts, he’s just good at guessing….kinda like Dr. Phil.”
“Okay, so I am not crazy?”
“No, but only if you believe me and not your ex-wives.”
“I’m gonna go with you on this one.”
“Where are you right now…aren’t you supposed to be down front and center?”
“Well that was the plan, but they did it to me again,” said the voice.
“I’m in the closet.”
“In the what?”
“On deck two, near section 101 …I’m locked in the closet.”
“Yer joking,” I said, semi-aloud…
“What?” asked Bob.
“Er, nothing. Hey I gotta ..you know…I’ll be back. Save my seat.”
I walked out across the deeply carpeted expanse and ducked into the men’s room. I splashed water on my face and thought about leaving straight away. But I was intrigued by then. And you know what they say about the cat…
I sat down in a stall and put my face in my hands.
“You back?” came the voice. “I thought you had deserted me.”
“I was thinking about it. Sorry.”
“Naw..I’m use to it. Happens all the time.”
“But I thought you were the ‘Hound of heaven’.”
“Where do you get that?”
“I dunno. Jonathan Edwards?”
“Oh he was such a tight-ass.” said the voice. “Look I may be a Lion and I may be a Lamb, but I ain’t a Dog. Your’e the one with the Doghouse, not me.”
“Oh so you know about that?”
“Sigh… Look I am on level 2, near section 101, I could really use some help here.”
“Okay, I’m on my way.”
As I hurried down I could hear Pastor White wrapping up his melodic sermon on people’s potential, partnerships and, I dunno….I think there were three other “p’s” in there somewhere. I reached the second floor when I asked (inside my head) “Okay, why do you need my help if you are who you say you are?”
“It’s complicated, yet really simple.”
“Are you always so enigmatic?”
“What do you think?”
“Yeah… okay, I’ll give you that one.”
“I’m almost there.” I said shaking my head. “And you are in the closet.”
“Yes, they locked me in here.”
I reached what I thought was the door. When I grabbed and turned it just led to a long hall and the sign said something about security for a “studio”.
Suddenly I almost started laughing out loud. Because I am a smartass, I held my wrist up to my mouth the way Secret Service do and in my head said “Sorry, no-go. I hit the studio. Are you East/West from this location?” Then I added a “Qisssshh!” static-like noise in my head (which is not that easy…try it).
“Very funny. I am due West about 20 steps.”
When I got to the grey door it was locked.
“It’s locked,” I said exasperated, “Now what..I mean who locks a cleaning closet?”
“I suppose it depends on what is inside,” said the voice.
“Good point. Look I need some help..I mean the service is almost over and this place will be flooded.”
“I said I’d never do that again,” he said.
“Very funny. You gonna sit in the closet and make divine jokes all day long or help me here?”
“You have to pray” came the voice.
“I just did” I said.
“Very good. Clever boy.”
As he heard that he could see a few people releasing from the service…people who had to setup the 48 ministry tables down in the three rotundas.
“But you need to…you know…”
“Oh yeah..okay,” I said frantic. “Father help me with this door so I can get to your son and I ask it in His name and for His glory. Amen” I said under my breath.
“How was that?”
“A little stiff, but thanks. He likes it that way. It gets His attention. And it’s actually good for you on 3,438 different levels of reality which I’ll explain to you after you die.”
“That gonna be anytime soon? I know your track record, people don’t stick around very long. It’s like being the black cop buddy in a major movie.”
“Could you just work the door please?”
I grabbed the door and it swung right open.
I started to make a joke in my head about him being “the door” but stopped dead in my tracks.
There he was in the semi-dark, bound, gagged and slumped in the corner.
He had rich chocolate skin and deep inset eyes. Not handsome, but neither is Jean Reno and he draws you right in too.
His mouth was gagged, and he was roped up pretty good. I professional job worthy of the Jesus Seminar.
“I heard that” came the voice in my head. “Clever…Can you get this stuff off of me?”
“Oh, sorry ,” I said aloud. “Here let me help you.”
I undid the gag first and wiped his sweating forehead with it. Then I untied him.
“Are you okay to get up?”
“I manage on occasion” he smiled.
It was kind of a moment for me. I have to say that. The smile. The closest smile to that I have ever seen to that was smiles on my children’s faces at various utterly innocent moments, yet here in a grown man.
Now he is not very tall, and I am. When J.B. Philips wrote his famous book Your God is Too Small I think he missed it by a foot or two. He’s about the size of LaBeau in Hogan’s Heroes, but impressive nonetheless. He could definitely have taken Napoleon except for the non-violence thing.
Anyway, after he got the blood, or whatever runs through a resurrected body going through his veins, he said, “It’s time to go.”
“Wait,” I said. “Don’t you mind that they locked you in a closet gagged and tied up?”
“Happens all the time. During the Inquisition…boy…I would have loved a closet with the clean scent of pine”.
“But what about all these people?”
“Oh I meet them all the time.”
“What here? In tier 3, section 307?”
“Every once and awhile. I met you today didn’t I? And you were in seat 34 in 303 next to Bob.”
“Is his wife really sick?”
“No, she left him six months ago. He gives away his seat every week to a different person. No one knows. You should call him next week.”
“I should?” I asked. “He’ll just get me in Amway.”
“No, he won’t. Take him for a beer and ask him about his life. Tell him your own struggles. He’ll cry and tell all. Be me to him. Be his friend.”
“Okay. I guess I can do that.”
“You did use to be a pastor…”
“Ha! yeah…how did I do?”
“You don’t wanna know.”
“Look I’m a merciful God…don’t push it.”
The service was letting out. I led him out and shut the cleaning room door.
“Where now?” I asked. “Your agenda.”
“I don’t know what do you want to do?” he asked looking up.
“What is this?… like being 10 years old in the Summer with nothing to do kinda-thingy? I mean I just got into my first service in three years and then you start talking in my head and then I find you tied up in a broom closet. It’s a bit much.”
“Okay…okay,” he said shaking his head. “Boy you had some pretty lame ideas when you were ten.”
“Yeah, well some things never change.” I said quietly whispering. “Look do you want to get out of here? I’d like to talk a bit more if you do not mind.”
“Sure,” he said. “Hey one cool thing was when you and Paul Standing made that model airplane and ran it down the wire on fire. That wasn’t lame at all.”
“Thanks,” I said. “Look, duck in here under my coat.”
The throngs came pouring out in thick waves as I hid the Son of Man under my big coat.
We had two floors to traverse and then make for the exit.
We got some looks. I mean the medium income of most of these folks is around $83,000 a year. I walking around with a scruffy looking Jewish guy in a robe under my coat.
One usher stopped me. “Can I help you?” he asked warily.
“I’m just taking this sweet man to the homeless ministry,” I said.
“I wasn’t aware that we had one?” he asked suspicious.
“Oh yeah…It’s great,” I feigned. “Pastor White’s wife chairs it,” I lied.
“You don’t have to do that Mac” he whispered from my armpit. “Things are better in the light of day. Besides. what are they gonna do, kick us out?”
“What if they tie you up again?”
“Oh they will do that again later.”
“What a life you have,” I said.
“Yeah, but it’s all there really is. Life.”
We got more furtive looks as we made our way through the crowd. One man stopped us to explain about various ministries, one of which was to help those with homosexual issues deal with them in a healthy fashion.
“I’ve just come out of the closet” the Son of Man said directly to the man.
He sputtered a bit.
“Yeah,” I said, giving him a quick wink, “and I really love this guy.”
We moved on.
“That was wicked,” I said.
“Not at all,” he said.
From there we made our way into the sanctuary because it was almost vacant except for the choir/band-thingy whatever.
They were practicing for the next three services.
We sat down in the thick padded movie theater chairs and were quiet for a while as they sang “His love endures forever…”
“So, does your love endure forever?” I asked as the band sang.
“Then why do so many bad things happen to people?”
“Who does those things…I mean generally?” he asked plainly.
“You all have so much more freedom than you know.”
“Doesn’t feel that way,” I said sadly.
“That’s because you impinge on each other’s freedom instead of choosing love.”
I sat silent.
“You know you could have left me in that closet, but you chose to come,” he said.
“Well, there is less choice when God is speaking to you.”
“You would be surprised. Ears to hear, eyes to see.”
“Okay, I admit, I did come here to see and hear you today.”
“No. No, it’s actually kinda fun.”
He grinned and so did I.
“Let’s go” he said.
“Where are we going?”
“You’ll see, trust me.”
But wait! There’s more! Buy the book! Coming Soon.
You will note that some of these “pieces” have been around awhile and wonder what is up with that? First, it was purely personal. I was a recluse due to a mental condition which was utterly unknown to me for two decades. So I would write a book and finish it, then just start on another one.
Until I was re-diagnosed and got the correct meds I just kept writing (I have a lot of books). Now I am freed up to publish, do readings, a book tour…you name it. No problem. More finished books on the way too!
Second, these “Jesus” issues have not gotten any better; in fact they have gotten worse in all cases. An essay like “The Haunt of Jackals” was interesting in 1993. In 2013 I’d up it to crucial and so will you after you read it.
Why the book? I have a simple saying: “I have been to the Center and it is not US.”
There you have it. In fact, if you want my advice? Read the poem All About Us first, then No Assembly Required (which broke my heart to write). Then go ahead and move on the funny stuff like Jesus Outed and Al Michael’s is God etc…
I put The Circular Argument at the end. It is, frankly, a devastating argument for a Christocentric world-view. The fact that this is not a given in the Church is beyond comprehension. It is analogous to the fact that we live in a Christocentric universe but the spellchecker on my computer does not recognize that as a “real word”.
The Church-at-large does not recognize that as a daily reality. hey are the Center and Jesus will help them. He is very gracious and loving to His Bride and often will. But the core problem with the Church is one of centrality and perception.