My buddy Ruger was a pit mix and he had the look, wide jaw, perked ears and intense eyes. Despite his menacing appearance he was embarrassingly friendly. He was a cuddle bunny who never knew a stranger.
The Duchess is Ruger’s niece. She is a pit mix with a chunk of Chow mixed in and she looks like a great big fuzzy black friendly-looking teddy bear. She might be a hugable old bear now but when she was younger, no matter how friendly she looked, she was the one to watch. If a stranger showed up, we’d keep an eye on her and when we saw the hair on her back go up, we’d call her down and stand between her and the unsuspecting chew toy.
You can’t judge a book by its cover or a dog by its smile.
Where I once worked, there were two brothers that worked in the back warehouse. They were down-home looking fellas, maybe from the edge of the tracks but they were always very friendly with me. We had them out to our place for a big cookout when my son had returned from Marine boot camp. No one at the party knew it at the time but one of the men had previously served time in prison for grand theft and the other for murder. If you’ve read Flight in Winter, the two competitive brothers in the story were inspired by these two men. To look at them, you wouldn’t be quite sure what you’d get. They look friendly enough but they had a rusty edge about them. Their names are Richard and Robert and they are my friends.
I’ve known people whose souls were as soft as down, others as hard as nails. Preachers that would gut you in the moonlight and stinky drunks that would give you their grocery money if they thought you needed it. I’ve known beautiful women who looked as pure as the driven snow that would bed a football team on a dare. (BTW, she was a preacher’s wife) We had a man over for dinner one night who was pimp. That man knew of and respected our faith and he left his ways outside when he entered our home. He was a professional looking fellow. You could stick him in any padded pew and no one would be the wiser except maybe some of his customers who attend the same church.
Jesus hung out with twelve ornery misfits. These cankered souls were from all walks of life and by today’s standards, they would have been considered losers. For three years, none of them had a job, they didn’t have a nickel to their name and they were homeless. For three years, they followed Jesus around while He knocked the bark off of them and prepared them for the ministry and when they finally stepped into the world on their own they still didn’t have a job or a nickel to their name and they were still homeless. They were bonafied losers and criminals to boot. What fun!
Speaking of misfits, can you imagine what John the Baptist looked like? That scurvy varmint lived in the wilderness and he ate bugs for Pete’s sake! Bugs! He’s probably not the man you’d invite to a church pot luck, am I right? He was also mouthy and got his head chopped off for telling the truth so he was obviously not the poster boy for political correctness. He wouldn’t get kicked out of church because he didn’t go.
I’m gonna step on some toes now.
Churches, for the most part, are corporate factories that squirt out little clones that are like Precious Moments figurines. They all look alike, they act alike and they all sound alike. Churches teach the malleable how to dress, how to hold their leather-bound Bible limp in one hand and speak the strange dialect of Christianese which is a smattering of butchered King James English with a hint of a Texas accent. In a public setting, these precious ones stick out like purple thumbs in a hammer factory. No wonder they have difficulty bringing souls to the Lord. (That’s two syllables, Lo-ord) Ya see, that’s another problem right there. We’re not supposed to bring souls “to the Lo-ord”. We’re suppose to lift the Lo-ord up and He does the bringin’.
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.
The Precious Moments church folks we know would never think of having a pimp over for dinner let alone a murderer. Most of them don’t want a thing to do with us either because they know we won’t drink their Kool-Aid. By the way, Jesus ate with winos, hookers and IRS agents.
By now, some of you have figured out that I can be a bit of a rascal. The Missus apologizes for me regularly. She does it behind my back but I know she does it. I don’t fit the Precious Moments, churchified mold yet in the past I have comfortably worshiped in every kind of church imaginable, from the ones where the preacher dude wears a dress and a funny hat to the ones where people roll in the aisles and foam at the mouth. (No, I didn’t roll or foam) I once sang in front of thousands at the World Conference of RLDS Churches (so what?) and I have also spoken some words that shouldn’t come from my mouth. But in spite of my somewhat gauche and eccentric demeanor, you know my faith. You may not always be able to connect those dots with what you have been taught to expect and accept but you know my faith. I am far from perfect but you know my faith.
You can go and read the long version but I’ll paraphrase it for you:
“That which I wouldn’t do, that do I do. I would that I wouldn’t but my heart’s not true.”
Here is the rest of the chapter:
24 Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?
25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
Which means, “I see what’s goin’ on here and I’m workin’ on it.”
The Precious Moments Christians stopped reading a while back because I offended them so let’s you and I chat for a minute. You might be a misfit. You might even be an agitated, roiling, gaseous mass of aggravation to those dripping with excessive religiousity but so was Jesus. So was John the Baptist. So were the prophets of the majors and minors. In fact, when you think about it, Jesus didn’t disapprove of the weird, rather He spewed His righteous indignation upon the clones, those who looked the part and acted the part but their hearts were kaleidoscopes of black. Can I get an amen?
8 These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.
9 They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.
Put those verses on the lettered sign in front of your church sometime and see if anyone notices. Do it, I dare you. You know I would.
Believers who are skewed a teensy bit from the norm have always been ostracized by the religious status quo.
1 Corinthians 4:9-10
9 For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to die, because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to people.
10 We are fools [misfits] for Christ, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, we are dishonored!
Let’s wrap this up, shall we? You might have been frightened if you met our pitty, Ruger and drawn to the cuddly looking Duchess and you would have been wrong on both counts. Upon first meeting Richard and Robert you might think “They’re missing some teeth but they seem nice enough.” When you learn a bit of their history you might be frightened out of your wits but after you really get to know them, you might invite them over for dinner and you’d get thrown out of your church for it. You have to avoid the appearance of evil and all that. Fit in or get out. That’s what they’re really saying, isn’t it?
I don’t care what your church thinks about me. Me and the Missus were rejected by three churches in our local town so one more ain’t no big deal. Collect the whole set! I’ve had pastors look me square in the eye while they preached against me. One told his congregation that I was a Judas. He later apologized but you can’t put the biscuits back in the horse, can you? After a rousing spiritual conversation, I had one preacher point his bony finger at me and tell me I was going to hell. I sadly shook the dust from my feet when I left and three days later that man was dead. True story. I didn’t do it but I think I know who did. [pointing up] There is someone reading this who knows these stories are true because she was there. The question is, do you care what your church thinks about you and if so, why?
God knows your heart, for better or worse. He knows your desires, good or bad. Your little secrets are between you and Him but I’m sure we can appreciate each other if we take the time to get to know one another. Let’s hang for a while, show me your heart and I’ll show you mine. We could be weird together. I promise not to judge you just because you did that one thing that one time and that place. [wink] [wink]
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil things about you falsely on account of me.
12 Rejoice and be glad because your reward is great in heaven, for they persecuted the prophets before you in the same way.
The soup’s no good unless you stir the pot.