Monday, November 30, 2009

Even as you have done to the least of these . . .

I made faces at one of my clients in court today. And he made faces back at me. Of course he is about eighteen months old so I suppose he had a good excuse. He had a choke-hold on sponge-bob square pants with one chubby little hand, waving him around with delight and yelling out "Bob" "Bob". Of course that made me laugh. Like the rest of him his blond hair would not behave, especially in the back where it couldn't decide where it wanted to lie, something I could relate to. So naturally, I made faces at him and he responded admirably in a like manner.

It is not going to make one bit of difference to my blond haired buddy whether our roads are in perfect condition, free of all pot-holes or whether our legislature or courts have new buildings to occupy. I doubt whether it is going to make his life better if we pursue military actions in the middle east, or anywhere else in the world right now.

You see, my young friend's parents are addicted to drugs. They did not even show up for court today. But he is luckier than some. He has a loving relative that is going to take care of him. Too many don't.

Like another of my clients today, a little girl even younger than sponge bob's friend. She will never know her brother, who would have been just a little bit older than her. He died at birth due to problems caused by his parents' drug habits. She lives in a foster home. But at least she is alive.

I was involved in two more similar cases today. And those are just the ones I was involved in.

For those of you who don't know, I don't practice in Los Angeles or New York, or even Birmingham, if I can help it.

This stuff happens every day of every week in Blount County, Alabama. Hundreds, maybe thousands of children are hurting from neglect and abuse because their parents are addicted to drugs, primarily methamphetamine.

It would be nice if we decided to do something about it out of a sense of morality or spirituality.

But for some reason we haven't.

So let's take a different approach.

Addiction to drugs, particularly meth, costs us a boatload of money. Law enforcement must not only enforce the drug laws, they are also called on to handle the domestic violence cases, the assault cases, the sexual violence cases, the theft and robbery cases and the murders which have drug addiction at their core.

Our court system is dominated by cases involving drugs in one form or another. Our health providers, both physical and mental, must deal with the ravages of drug addiction both on the parents and their children, often being paid out of the public coffers. Our education system must deal with the children who are handicapped by their parents' drug addictions. Our labor force is weakened by addiction. Our crime rate is multiplied by addiction. And now with meth labs springing up as a major cottage industry, environmental clean-up costs will keep going up. Our property values go down. Our tax base goes down. Our opportunities for economic development are lessened.

That being the case, surely our governments have a plan.

No they don't. I haven't asked them to make one, have you?

But that pot-hole crisis is under control. Roads are being paved and widened, new government buildings are being planned, and our interests in Iraq and Afghanistan will protected, cost be damned. Thank God. A smooth, cheap ride is important after all.

I am sure we'll get around to addressing our own human crisis when we can afford it, but until then, children be damned.


Saturday, November 28, 2009

I'll be home for Christmas? . . .Two percent Christmas (cont)

Saturday morning. Sofa. Coffee.

The humongous bells are now dangling from the roof in the glassed atrium at the Galleria. It's beginning to look a lot like a two percent Christmas. But I like them. And I like the omni-present Christmas music that follows shoppers wherever we go.

"I'll be home for Christmas. You can plan on me."

I find myself doing my best crooner imitation as I walk along. No one has stopped me for my autograph. Harry Connick Jr. is safe.

Home for Christmas. It is the theme of thousands of small town parades, Christmas cards, school plays, Hallmark movies, Hallmark commercials, and of course, songs.

But what about Jesus?

He certainly was not home for that first Christmas. Nor was his family.

And his homeless condition did not end in Bethlehem.

"Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." Luke 9:58

We are afraid of that. As we speak and sing of the comforting thought of being home for Christmas, we who say that we follow Jesus are secretly afraid. We turn up the volume when Bing Crosby reserves his place at home for the holidays.

Partially because we don't want to hear another familiar voice quietly patiently saying, "Put down whatever you are doing and come follow me." After all no one ever wrote an endearing song about the joys of being on the road for the holidays. (Although Planes, Trains and Automobiles is a great movie).

Christmas is a celebration of God's willingness to come to us where we are. And He came with an invitation. Jesus said "Come and follow me."

In our simple minded arrogance we either boast of our sacrifices for the small steps we take outside our doors or even worse we take no steps at all convincing ourselves that surely God would never ask us to leave the Godly homes we have created and maintain.

Our sad mistake is that God's invitation is not for us to leave home . . .

It is an invitation to truly come home.


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Two percent Christmas

Saturday. Sofa. Coffee.

A few weeks ago as we were preparing the Friday morning prayer breakfast Joe was pouring his coffee. He poured something into it from a carton. The carton read, "Fat-free half and half." I have been disturbed ever since. Half and half is supposed to have fat. If it does not have fat, it cannot be half and half. Whatever it is may turn the coffee golden, and may have a pleasant flavor, but it is not half and half, is it?

A recent article in the Atlantic caused quite a stir. It had nothing to do with half and half.

The article is primarily an anecdotal account of how the Christian prosperity gospel contributed to the economic meltdown. I think most of the buzz was created by the provocative title "Did Christianity Cause the Crash?"

I would recommend that you read the article. It is not nearly as edgy as the sensational title would lead you to believe. If you choose not to read the article then I will refer you to old Janis Joplin hit "Mercedes Benz":

"Oh lord won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz.
My friends all drive porsches, I must make amends.
Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends.
So oh lord won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz ?"

This morning I define Christianity as a religion focused on the revelation of God incarnate through Jesus.

But half and half is supposed to have fat. And here it is being called half and half even without its well known essence . . .fat.

And Christianity is being called Christianity without its apparently lesser known essence . . . Jesus.

The author of the Atlantic article and other media surely cannot be blamed for its use or misuse of the Christianity label. We Christians love to stick our brand on almost anything . . . nation, war, capitalism, socialism, health reform, opposition to health reform, taxes (more and less), discrimination, persecution, pest-control, dry-cleaners, attorneys, auto-repair, political parties, schools, day-cares, gun safety training, music; I could go on, but perhaps I already have.

Sometimes Jesus truly is the main ingredient.

But other times all that is present is an artificial Jesus flavoring.

Christmas lite.

Great taste.

Less filling.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

"Autumnal" . . .I love that word

These are the days of my life. There are about 28 days or so in late October and November that are perfect, at least in my book. They are some of the reasons I love where I live. Sometime in mid-October the thick, warm, humid summer reluctantly and slowly releases North Alabama from its heavy hand , and within a few days the sky is blue, the sun is golden, and every day is an adventure in creation as the trees first hint of the coming change with a red leaf here, a yellow leaf there. Then overnight the artist spills the paint, and in the perfect light of the lower sun the colors explode.

The leafy carpet of golden hickory, amber oak, and maroon maple are the recipe for an autumn potpourri that in the cool morning air smells of spice and memories. After an early autumn storm, which have been plentiful this year, the scent of broken pine spikes the recipe, creating an aroma that cannot be stored or saved. It must be enjoyed in the moment.

Autumn is intoxicating for me.

I love discussions of religion and politics: health reform, war, economics, social justice, poverty. You know the list.

But this is a time apart for me. A precious time. A rare time. A short, short time.

There will be time in a very few days to sit in the house on cold days and dark nights to ponder the weighty issues of the day.

But today I will walk on that carpet of gold, amber and maroon, and let the creation ponder me.
I hope you make time to come along.

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