Wednesday, January 30, 2013

You've got to know when to hold em, know when to fold em, know when to walk away and know when to run....


The day went back and forth between snow and rain. At the end of a long cold day, I’m sitting in the office with Stephen and Danielle, reviewing a day in court. It’s bad enough getting sued. And realize its not just the church but me, personally. But then I saw a former employee, close friend, there to testify against me and the bottom dropped out of my heart. I told them how I waited all  morning and then was told we’d go to trial later that afternoon.

Told them how over the lunch break, I wandered through an ever more disorienting Chinatown. How you go down certain side streets, so crowded you can hardly move, no one speaking English, even all the signs in  Chinese only and people in the shops looking at you as if you’ve entered somewhere you don’t belong. Find a hole in the wall Vietnamese shop. Times article on the window says it’s what would happen if you crammed a whole Walmart into 200 square feet. Women’s underwear, black bras, a wall of Vietnamese DVD’s and CD’s and even a bargain bin of mix tapes. Real mix tapes. 
And a deli serving those amazing Vietnamese sandwiches on French bread, that classic colonial mixture of Asian and French. I’m saving room so I settled for Vietnamese meatballs on a stick.

How I noticed that Little Italy has shrunk to maybe three blocks and as gentrifying real estate dealers push deeper into Chinatown, Chinatown begins to spread into Soho. How what I thought were leftover Christmas street lights are actually there for Asian lunar new year. How you walk down some side streets and feel like you could disappear and never be seen again and not even care. And finally, after an hour of searching, find the pork bun stand you were looking for. Then duck into a Starbucks to catch your breath and get grounded for just a moment before heading back to court. And then being confronted with the fact that someone who was one of your very closest friends has just arrived to be a witness against you. Yeah, disoriented.

And how even though objectively we’re doing fine in the csse, emotionally it’s devastating on top of everything else. Have to come back Wednesday, and now Hope has to testify too. 

Danielle tells me that the Prophet was there most of the day. Actually spoke to her. She showed him the clothing collection, but all he wanted was a blanket. he asked for scissors. Turned the blanket  into one of his poncho like outer garment. Went into a ritual of prayer and thanksgiving in his own tradition and then took off. Yes, he actually spoke. 

I want to prepare for tonight’s Bible  study but decide to see if RL is in his office at the Gate and compare to figure out who had the worse day.

Tonight’s Bible study moves into Mark 13. Where Mark gets seriously apocalyptic. Talking about wars and rumors of wars. And the instructions that see to say head to the hills... Anna wants to know how this relates to the fact that the temple had already been destroyed when this was written. 

I explain that when I went to seminary, that was the scholarly  concensus but now, they’re not so sure. More recent scholarship seems to indicate that Mark was written before the Temple fell. As the rebel forces were gathering up and Rome was preparing the siege of Jerusalem. Jesus is saying go, now,yes, do head for the hills. Like Stokeley Carmichael once said, put your guns away, they’ve got more. I think about how in backgammon,sometimes you  will  strategically give up on single  games in hoping to make  the points up later. Or as Kenny Rogers once sang in a simple country song,

Yoi’ve got to know when to hold em
Know when to fold em
Know when to walk away 
And know when to run

In short, the message is to walk away from the defense of Jerusalem to live to fight another day. I explained that some archeological   records showed that some groups had fled Jerusalem to land in Pella in Jordan. 

The Pinkerton barge attacks Homestead, 1892
For the first time Marsha sees that this is not just unrelenting bad news. There’s a clear message here. But when do you know? John mentions the Warsaw ghetto. Anna talks of wartime Japan. I talk about the Homestead strike of 1892. How Carnegie and Frick sent   the Pinkertons and then the National Guard after the union men. The union men held out for 9 days. As my organizer friend Barney once said, They held out for nine days. It was only awhile. But sometimes awhile means a lot. To this day, there are fresh flowers daily on the memorial to the fallen workers on the Homestead side of the river. 

Discernment is not easy. What are we called to in our present moment? What Jesus makes very clear is that simply rotating one power for another isn't enough. His call to watch, is a call to see the signs that are around you. My mentor Philip used to say, if God wants something to happen in this world, it is already happening. It’s our job to see it and gather all the support we can. Watch. It’s about creating a whole new way of life. And that’s the most radical idea yet. If heaven shakes as earth shakes, as it did for slave holders, as it did for those who hold out against women or gays, as it did for us when 9-11 toppled the towers, what is shaken on earth is  shaken in heaven.Our cosmology, our whole way of looking at life. Even very understanding of God. It’s all up for grabs. on the table,


  1. "never count your money while you're sittin' at the table. They'll be time enough for countin', when the day is done.
    (Teddy loved playing poker... a little too much)

    1. Now there's a game I would have loved to have played with him...once...!