Posts Tagged ‘ accountability ’

Stray cats and dogs

Lots of people collect ‘em. I don’t. I collect books. But, like mongrels, the books on my shelves are not collectors’ items or first editions. There are some interesting titles (I think); but few people would give my books a second glance. In fact, few people have, tho most of my 1,000 volumes on are shelves in the living room. Opposite the front door. You can’t miss ‘em.

My point is this: you can tell who loves cats and dogs, either by the smell, or the bark, or the hair (or, is it fur? I can never remember). As my little brother might say, “Love my dog, love me” (or, do I have that backwards?). He might say it, but I won’t. I used to be ok with pets – just, “ok” – really ambivalent; didn’t much care one way or the other. Until I bought a house next door to a woman who owns about a dozen football dogs (little yappy things, the kind of dog I’d dearly love to kick), boards and grooms others (some, real dogs). When I worked nights, the little darlings often played in her backyard (while she stayed inside) and kept me company. Yet another reason why discharging firearms in the city is not permitted.

So, there’s Levi, inviting Jesus over to his house for dinner. I can imagine him then thinking something along the lines of, “Oops! I hope He’s not offended by the mess. When was the last time the wife cleaned? Maybe He’ll come tomorrow?” I’m thinking, “No such luck.” Jesus probably said, “What are we waiting for?” What would Jesus have noticed upon walking in the front door of Levi’s house? What would be His first impression upon entering yours?

In reading that passage of Levi’s invitation, I had the thot: “What if Jesus was at my door, right now?” I’d hear the knocking (I disabled the doorbell when I worked nights), I’d go open the door, I’d recognize Him immediately, and I’d blurt out, “Jesus Christ.” Maybe He’d smile (‘cause He knew that was coming), Maybe He’d make some quip like, “I certainly hope so.” I mean, Jesus has a sense of humor, right? I know His Father does, so “like father, like son,” right?

Anyway, He couldn’t help but notice the wall of books. He might think, “This guys sure loves books,” or maybe a more cynical, “I wonder if he’s read even half these things?” ‘Course, He already knows, so I guess this would be a rhetorical question? Is that a rhetorical question?

A better question is: “Are you living your life so that (a), if (GOD forbid, eh?) Jesus came over for dinner tonight (think of Sidney Poitier, if that helps) you could – in any way – be the least little bit comfortable; or (b) you’d actually like what you might find in Heaven?” Think about the latter possibility: what, exactly would you do if the streets of Heaven were, indeed, paved with gold? Not working? How about singing “Hallelujah” for all eternity (I was gonna say “all day, every day,” but of course, time has no meaning in Heaven). Maybe trying to make a joyful noise on Sunday mornings would be a good warm-up?

I see a lot of debate about whether or not there is a Hell, or if it’s populated. Logically, it makes perfect sense that there is nobody in Hell: of course GOD would make something that is absolutely worthless. And, since I am trying to prepare for that other eventuality (I accept that I haven’t filed my taxes yet), I’m very curious about what I read in the Owner’s Manual (as a very important man once described it to me – he was also a Disciple of Christ minister). I’m not finding much hope at all for the idea that there is no Hell, that Jesus won’t judge after all (maybe just wink-wink and a nod of the head?), and maybe being a goat is not just being the butt of some joke (or, maybe it is?). How else to read Matthew 25:41-46?

So, not much comfort in the concept that Jesus is my “Get out Jail Free Card.” No, I’m not thinking I can do much to guarantee that I’ll like what’s behind Door Number Two, when I’m standing there (naked, and alone) in front of the Pearly Gates. But, at least – at the very least – I will be able to say that I tried.

While I do believe the Bible is inspired (the Holy Spirit guiding the hand of man which held the pen), I don’t believe it is all, word-for-word, literally true (for starters, none of the original Bible has survived to this day, and none of what has survived was written in English). Some parts I do take at face value. like not trying to interpret the Bible by myself (2 Peter 1:20). Look to Burridge if you’re trying to get your hands around the genre of the Gospels – I’m only half-way thru his What Are the Gospels, and the thing I am really sure of is that I’m not really sure of much. But, I do believe that the entire Bible is about Jesus Christ; and the one thing that keeps coming back, over and over, is the idea that He is setting Himself up (forward?) as an example. He wants us to follow His example, His lead. Very much a “Do as I say, and do as I do,” kind of thing.

And that makes my trials and tribulations inescapable. I have no personal knowledge of scourging or crucifixion; but, like standing in front of a Mac truck on the interstate, I really (no, really) don’t think I need to. Granted, I might be missing part of the, um (forgive me) full impact; but I’ll take that chance. Nevertheless, the end of Jesus’ life here on earth was not all skittles and beer. And, I don’t believe He intends for us to have a free-ride, either. Pretty much a case of: “This is what I did for you, what are you doing for Me?”

Full disclosure: that last sentence, that question I originally wrote as “This is what I did for you, what are you going to do for Me?” A quick re-read and I discovered that it shouldn’t be future tense, it should be here and now: today. The Season of Lent is a great time, one could say the perfect time for an assessment of what you value and what you are doing (actually doing, not just planning on doing) to realize those goals. It seems that everyone I know is busy. Busy, busy, busy. Really, the only question is: “Busy doing what?” Anything important? Anything that will make a difference in your life; or just stuff to try to hang on to whatever your life is like at the moment?

Do you look out a window and try to find ways to help others, or do you look in a mirror and try to find ways to help yourself? What was the last book you opened? Got any books at all around the house? Any magazines besides Readers’ Digest? Read anything besides a menu? Anything at all? Or, just marking time? Just putting one foot in front of the other? Look around the house, exactly what do you think is getting you ready for your future? What you do today profoundly affects today, and very nearly makes tomorrow guaranteed. Yeah, the bell tolls for all of us. And, eternity is a long time.

Get out of Jail Free

Dunno why – tho I can certainly speculate – but the world has gotten to the point where it’s obsessed with “I want it all, and I want it now.” Of course, in this mad rush to accumulate toys, there is no time to consider the consequences, the cost. If there is any threat of accountability, then Flip Wilson’s classic “the devil made me do it” leaps to mind (if that is too, um, flip, then you can always go for John Belushi’s apology to Carrie Fisher in “The Blues Brothers,” as theatrical as it was insincere). A life of no payback and no pay-it-forward. A life of no stubbed-toes, skinned knees or bloody noses. The narcissists wouldn’t be so intolerable if they didn’t expect others to pay for their self-aggrandizement.

But, completely convinced that everything good is because of my efforts, and everything bad is the result of your screw-ups, we press on regardless. Until cut-down, or slowed-down, by some unfair quirk of fate, when we reach into our (or their) hip pocket and pull out the sacred “Get Out of Jail Free” card. And then life is not forever changed, and we go right back to the same hedonistic existence we have come to love, and expect. Infants are supposed to be all about themselves; aren’t adults supposed to be more than just large infants? What am I missing?

Nothing. Nothing at all.

Even if you don’t believe in Jesus the Nazorean as the Son of GOD, there is still the purely historical account of the purely human preacher who was no less than a member of a long line of rabble-rousers (aka prophets). And, as well documented as anything else was in those days, the Romans were not impressed, and summarily executed Him. And, within another generation, razed Jerusalem (as if to say, “We’ll show those pain-in-the-ass Jews”). Those penniless preachers who made the moneyed elite squirm paid for their beliefs with their lives (voluntarily, as opposed to someone like Julius Caesar who probably did not throw himself on Brutus’ sword).

So, is Jesus my “Get Out of Jail Free” card? If He saved me, “once for all,” then I can pretty much do anything I damn-well please, and Bob’s your uncle (or something else equally non-sensical), right? Some would say, yeahsureyoubetcha (no, that’s not Yiddish, it’s Yooper). There’s a whole mess of folks who point at the empty cross…and pray, “I’m saved, I can do no wrong; and the rest of you are going to Hell.”

Really? Jesus died for me so I could avoid all unpleasantness? His only possession was the cloak on his back, so that I could accumulate so much stuff that my three-car garage doesn’t have enough room in it for my cars? (see George Carlin’s treatise on “Stuff” – it’s on YouTube, like most everything else). Maybe so; but I don’t buy it. Call it my old-fashioned, middle class and mid-west upbringing. The alphabet I was taught began with the letter “a” which stood for accountability – not accounts.

To me, the empty cross is hope; but I can’t allow myself to skip the Crucifix. I can’t allow myself to expect that this world owes me “the car and the dream vacation.” I’ll never believe that He suffered so that I wouldn’t have to. His whole point rather, was choice; and He showed me that free will is a two-edged sword. Christ offered salvation to me, He did not guarantee it. He’s knocking on the door, but I have to open it. I have to pick up my pallet and walk. I have to do something.

There’s the story of the guy who gets down on his knees, day after day, to pray to GOD for help. “Dear Lord, please just let me win the lottery. Please Lord. Somebody’s gonna win, let it be me.” Finally, more out of exasperation than anything else, a voice comes out of the heavens, “For pity’s sake, man. Meet me half way: buy a ticket.”

Yes, Jesus is my “Get Out of Hell Free” card; but I’ll be damned if I’m going to get to the Pearly Gates and have Him wave the card in front of my face and ask, “What have you done for me?”