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Posts Tagged ‘The Wire’

“You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain (Psalm 139:5,6).”

Jimmy McNulty  is a detective enjoying a Saturday out with his two boys. Theyare browsing around a Baltimore farmer’s market when McNulty spots Stringer Bell, an elusive leader of the Barksdale drug gang.

In an episode of the hit TV series “The Wire”  called “Lessons”, McNulty tells his sons to employ a game he has taught them called “Front and Follow”.  One boy walks in the path Bell is facing while the other tails him from behind.

McNulty doesn’t follow Bell himself. The crook knows who he is.

Bell leads them out into the street outside the market area. There he gets into his car.

One of the boys steps aside and takes out a pen and paper. He writes down the license number of Bell’s car before the mobster drives away.

The technique their Dad taught them has proven to be quite effective. There was no way they were going to lose sight of Stringer Bell.

The kids are so good at this spy game that not only do they get valuable information about a criminal, but they lose their father.  McNulty, having lost sight of his boys, ends up having to get the market management to help him find them.

With the boys’ effective strategy, Bell has no idea that he is being followed. He has no clue that  people who are perilous to his welfare are lurking around.

In this world, believers in Jesus Christ have the same problem as Bell. We are being tailed by some expert followers of Satan who wish to do us harm.

According to the Apostle Paul, Satan is pretty good at blinding people, especially those who have chosen to ignore God and reside under his authority. The devil and his minions are out of sight, but they are doing their own version of “Front and Follow” in order to get the goods on their targets (II Corinthians 4:4).

If you you think Satan is not alive or well today, or some guy parodied at a Halloween party, think again. Better yet, pick up a copy of Bill Scott’s book “The Day Satan Called.”

In this book Scott relates a true story of his encounter with a demon at the radio station where he once worked. The call was initially handled by a colleague.

When Scott first met with the situation, the coworker had just gotten off the phone and was white as a ghost. He related to Scott that he had just talked to a demon.

Scott was skeptical at first. However, once he took one of the calls, he too was quite scared.

The actual calls were placed by a 16-year old girl who claimed she was living in a witches coven and would be sacrificed on Halloween, which was coming in a few days. She would then be interrupted by a demon, who would come on the line in a voice that was not human and spit out venom, blasphemy and threats.

While not blind to spiritual things like those who do not follow God, believers are still subject to Satan’s “Front and Follow” techniques.  Paul himself didn’t see the devil visually, but he felt him. Paul wrote,”We are hard pressed on every side (II Corinthians 4:8a)”.

The Scriptures discuss not only our openness to the devices of Satan, but also to the world system under his control (I John 2: 15-17; I John 5:19). We are surrounded by an increasingly chaotic culture in which right and wrong have been turned upside down.

David Jeremiah notes that believers are under a lot of pressure to conform to the culture today. In a message calling for the Christian to be totally consumed by commitment to Jesus Christ he says:

“We are in a very vulnerable place in our nation and in our churches. If we continue down the road of just trying to be Christian enough so that we can get counted on the roll, we are going to be victimized by the culture in which we live.”

It is as if the believer is a submarine being hunted by an enemy on the surface whom they cannot see.  However, the “ping, ping, ping” of the sonar is there.

When the attacks come, our boat is subject to collapse under the pressure.  If we don’t have internal fortitude, the stress will kill us if the external bombs don’t.

Thus, not only do we have to battle against Satan and the world system, but also fight our own selves. This is why it is so necessary to have the radical commitment to Christ Jeremiah talks about.

He summarizes one of Paul’s arguments for this: “If we’re going to function, if we’re going to be faithful in this culture, you have to present everything there is about you to everything you know about Him.”

One of the things I do know about God is that He is omnipresent. He is present everywhere.

God is not controlled by space. He is not limited by time. Thus, there is no ability for us to  slip out of His sight (Jeremiah 23:23,24; Hebrews 4:13).

God also doesn’t fall asleep at the switch. He constantly has His eye on things. The Psalmist writes:

 He will not let your foot slip—
   he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
   will neither slumber nor sleep.

  The LORD watches over you—
   the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
   nor the moon by night.

  The LORD will keep you from all harm—
   he will watch over your life;
the LORD will watch over your coming and going
   both now and forevermore. (Psalm 121:3-8).

Another thing I know about God is that He calls Himself our Father. However, he is not a Dad cut in the mode of a Jimmy McNulty.

He is completely “all that”. Our Father will not lose track of us. In fact, He wouldn’t put young boys up to a dangerous surveillance mission of a mobster either.

Indeed, God has His own version of “Front and Follow” which He engages in on His own. While Satan and his demons are out there spying on us, God has His own eyes on those evil beings on our behalf.

The only difference is that God doesn’t need two of Himself to play the game! It’s mind boggling.

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“Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you.  Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, LORD.  They rejoice in your name all day long;  they celebrate your righteousness (Psalm 89:14-16).”

Jimmy McNulty can’t win for losing. He’s a loser at office politics.

Jimmy is a fictional detective in the TV show called “The Wire”. He’s something of a rebel, at least to his superiors in the Baltimore Police Department.

Jimmy doesn’t really mean to get his bosses mad at him. He just wants to be a good cop. However, all he does is get himself into trouble and get himself isolated.

The “fun” begins when McNulty attends the murder trial of DeAngelo Barksdale, a member of a drug running family. When a witness backs off her story and DeAngelo is freed, McNulty is there.

McNulty understands that the body count in the section of Baltimore where the Barksdales operate is due to their brutal methods. In a visit to an old friend, a powerful city judge, he brings this up in conversation.

The next thing you know, McNulty is being called on the carpet for insubordination. The judge has made a phone call to the detective’s boss.

When a witness who actually did testify in DeAngelo’s trial is murdered after the verdict, things get even worse for McNulty. He suggests to his fellow detective that the murder was probably done by the Barksdales as payback. When the story is spun that way and published on the front page of the Baltimore newspaper, McNulty gets the blame, although he has not talked to a reporter.

Afterwards, his superior officer walks into the cubicle area of the office looking for McNulty and when he finds he isn’t there, takes his hand and clears a bunch of stuff off his desk. When he learns from the sergeant manning the office that the desk he has just mutilated belongs to another officer, the boss turns around and walks away in exasperation.

McNulty’s problem is that he just doesn’t trust his bosses, and with good reason.  They are the types who will cover their own behinds and are motivated more by politics than doing the right thing. When McNulty does try to do the right thing, he is slapped down.

Furthermore, his superiors seem clueless. McNulty is a detective, which means he does his homework. However, his bosses just don’t want to make waves and ignore the problems in their department and in the city of Baltimore, to the detriment of both.

Caught in the middle between the big bosses and McNulty is Lt. Cedric Daniels. When the police heads have to address the murdered witness issue because of the headlines, they put him in charge of a sham unit assigned to investigate.

The section by design is loaded with incompetents and do nothings. Only McNulty and another female detective are capable.

When Daniels complains to his wife about the case, she advises him to “get out of it”.  Her husband asks her how he could do that, and she replies. “I don’t know, but you cannot lose if you do not play.”

She summarizes Daniels situation for him. She tells him that if he pushes to hard and things go wrong, he will get the blame. On the other hand, if he does nothing, he will get the blame for that, too.

She reminds him that he is investigating a case his bosses do not want. They have given him bad people to sabotage him. “You cannot lose if you do not play”, she reiterates.

The choices are not good when you are dealing with poor supervision. You can either demand to be heard or do nothing, but in either case you are left  alone and hung out  to dry when your bosses are corrupt.

 The Bible has a story that shows what can happen when those in charge actually do get behind their subordinates. It involves King David and some of his ambassadors.

In the episode, recorded in II Samuel 10, David decides to honor an ally by sending emissaries to their king’s funeral. He has had a good relationship with this man, the leader of the Ammonites.

However, the dead monarch’s son isn’t so friendly. On the suggestion of his advisors, he is suspicious of David and humiliates his ambassadors, cutting off their clothes at the buttocks and shaving off half their beards. (A full face of hair is the sign of a man in the Middle East.)

Imagine yourself in the place of these ambassadors. Most of us, given our experiences with today’s employers, would have probably expected David to ignore the whole situation.

However, this is not what happened.  David told the men to lay low until their beards grew back, thus showing them respect. Then, he began a war against the Ammonites, which he won in a mighty fashion. He brought everything to bear against the opponent  (II Samuel 10:1-19).

David sent a message to those who thought they could get by with double dealing and chicanery. After their defeat, these people were afraid to mess with David and his people in the future (II Samuel 10:19).

We shouldn’t be surpised at today’s workplace. The source of all the chaos comes from one source. Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones wrote some lyrics which describe him:

Please allow me to introduce myself
I’m a man of wealth and taste
I’ve been around for a long, long year
Stole many a man’s soul and faith

And I was ’round when Jesus Christ
Had his moment of doubt and pain
Made damn sure that Pilate
Washed his hands and sealed his fate

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name
But what’s puzzling you
Is the nature of my game.

So who is this person who makes people like our bosses walk away from our troubles? What is his name and what is his game? Jagger later tells us:

Just as every cop is a criminal
And all the sinners saints
As heads is tails
Just call me Lucifer
‘Cause I’m in need of some restraint.

Behind all the messiness at our jobs is the devil himself. Ironically, the song “Sympathy for the Devi”l caught hell from “good” people when it was released. However, Stones guitarist Keith Richards explained its true meaning in 2002:

“Sympathy is quite an uplifting song. It’s just a matter of looking the Devil in the face. He’s there all the time. I’ve had very close contact with Lucifer – I’ve met him several times. Evil – people tend to bury it and hope it sorts itself out and doesn’t rear its ugly head. Sympathy for the Devil is just as appropriate now, with 9/11. There it is again, big time. When that song was written, it was a time of turmoil. It was the first sort of international chaos since World War II. And confusion is not the ally of peace and love. You want to think the world is perfect. Everybody gets sucked into that. And as America has found out to its dismay, you can’t hide. You might as well accept the fact that evil is there and deal with it any way you can. Sympathy for the Devil is a song that says, Don’t forget him. If you confront him, then he’s out of a job.” (Songfacts.com)

The problem in today’s office is that employers refuse to follow Richards’ advice and confront evil. They’d rather wash their hands of it like Pontius Pilate. In that respect, Jagger is correct when he says that “Sympathy for the Devil” is also about the darkness of man.

If the boss won’t do it, I suppose it’s still up to us, if we are followers of God.  It’s our task to look Satan in the eye and take him out in our places of work.

If our employer isn’t on the side of good, we still have an ally walking the halls of work with us. That would be Jesus Christ, the Son of David and the Son of God.

Like His ancestor and His Father, when we cry out to Him over the injustices in our offices, He cares. Also like David, Jesus will do something about them, even if our bosses won’t!

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“By day the LORD directs his love,at night his song is with me—a prayer to the God of my life (Psalm 42:8).”

“I believe that you and me last forever
Oh yeah, all day and night-time yours, leave me never
The only time I feel alright is by your side” (The Kinks, All Day and All of the Night)

Sometimes life comes at me in themes. Today’s theme has to do with homophones.

For the non-linguist, a homophone as defined by Merriam Webster is “one of two or more words pronounced alike but different in meaning or derivation or spelling (as the words to, too, and two).”  The homophone of the day is “chili”.

I bought some Mexican chili beans for dinner tonight to put on my wheat tortillas. I did this on the recommendation of a friend, who at the moment is something of my diet guru. (He is trying to help me get in shape.)

While I was out riding around with my personal trainer buddy and his friend today, a catchy song came on the radio. It was by a group called “Hot Chelle Rae”, which I learned of later. 

Homophone number two, right? Wrong. After hearing the song I decided to check up on its source, and found the middle term of the band’s moniker is pronounced like “Shell”, not “chili”. 

Finally, as is common in Finland at the end of September, it was “chilly” today. Homophone number 3-can anyone say “bingo!”?

The friend of the guy helping me lose weight has had a horrible week.  First, he had his wisdom teeth out, then he caught the flu. This is probably why Hot Chelle  Rae’s first lyrics from their song “Tonight, Tonight” immediately caught my attention as it came into the back seat of the car:

“It’s been a really really messed up week
Seven days of torture, seven days of bitter…”

My week hasn’t been anything like that, but as I sit here tonight writing this, I think of the lyrics of another song called “Tonight, Tonight”, this time by the Smashing Pumpkins. The lyrics have to do with change and the possibility of it.

“Time is never time at all
You can never ever leave without leaving a piece of youth
And our lives are forever changed
We will never be the same
The more you change the less you feel
Believe, believe in me, believe
That life can change, that you’re not stuck in vain
We’re not the same, we’re different tonight
Tonight, so bright
Tonight
And you know you’re never sure
But you’re sure you could be right
If you held yourself up to the light
And the embers never fade in your city by the lake
The place where you were born
Believe, believe in me, believe
In the resolute urgency of now
And if you believe there’s not a chance tonight
Tonight, so bright
Tonight
We’ll crucify the insincere tonight
We’ll make things right, we’ll feel it all tonight
We’ll find a way to offer up the night tonight
The indescribable moments of your life tonight
The impossible is possible tonight
Believe in me as I believe in you, tonight

What I am wondering is if I can truly change. The lyrics by Billy Corgan seem to say ‘yes”, if I hold myself up to the light and “believe”.

According to Roling Stone magazine,”Corgan is a romantic who believes in the redemptive power of love, but he’s also a cynic, having been constantly disappointed by those he loves.”  His song “Tonight, Tonight” is  said to “weave together a story of urgency and longing (AllMusic.com)”.

As I am getting older, the question to me is how to get unstuck and overcome the disappointment in myself and in life in general. If I don’t have the same sense of urgency as Corgan, I should, given my age.

I suppose one tactic would be to just ignore the whole thing. This is the approach of the protagonist in the song by “Hot Chelle Rae”.

The reason his week has been so awful is that his girlfriend was unfaithful to him. His plan in dealing with it is to clain what happened to him doesn’t matter and to party his head off:

La la la, whatever, la la la, it doesn’t matter, la la la, oh well, la la la

We’re going at it tonight tonight
There’s a party on the rooftop top of the world
Tonight tonight and were dancing on the edge of the Hollywood sign
I don’t know if I’ll make it but watch how good I’ll fake it
Its all right, all right, tonight, tonight

I woke up with a strange tattoo
Not sure how I got it, not a dollar in my pocket.

Pretense and addiction is only one method of trying to face the idea of  change.  Two people, one real and one fictional come to mind when I think of the possibility of metamorphosis and how to engage it. They both had hellish lives, but they chose different outcomes.

One of the people I have in mind is Mike Flanagan. He’s a legend from my favorite baseball team, the Baltimore Orioles.

Outwardly successful these days as a baseball executive and broadcaster, Flanagan went out in the woods a couple of weeks ago and ended it all with a shotgun.  It came out in the Baltimore Sun today that he had threatened suicide several times in the past.  Flanagan apparently could not reconcile his anguishing thoughts this time, and given the absence of anyone to prevent it, je finally took his life.

The other person who I have thought of in terms of change is a character from “The Wire”, a Home Box Office (HBO) series with Baltimore ties as well. Namond Brice is a middle school kid caught in a difficult world.

Namond’s father is Wee-Bey Brice, the imprisoned enforcer of the local drug syndicate that has held sway in his neighborhood. The son is expected to follow in Daddy’s footsteps.

The problem is that Namond, despite his attempts, cannot pull it off. He is a likeable and gregarious boy who just doesn’t have what it takes to be a corner boy and future drug kingpin.

Namond finally realizes this when he watches a close friend, a rising star in the drug business, badly beat up a small boy who has been caught stealing narcotics from the business. Namond is there, but is horrified and runs away.

Eventually, he faces the truth with weeping and tears that he is not his father and will never be. Willing now to move on, he moves in with a teacher,  former major police officer Bunny Colvin, who has taken him under his wing. Namond is ready for change and a new life.

The recovery groups will tell you that acknowledging that your life is out of control is the first step in getting a handle on it. Namond realized he was up against forces too great for him, and he sought help from the willing Mr. Colvin.

Two  contemporary kings of ancient Israel and Judah also saw that they weren’t strong enough to deal with powerful obstacles in their lives. Both the son of Saul, Ish-Bosheth, and David, who was beginning his ascendancy by ruling in Judah, had unruly army commanders.

Ish-Boseth’s problem was Abner, who got upset when the king confronted him over a dalliance with one of Saul’s concubines. Abner got very upset and threatened to go over to David’s side.

When Abner actually did so, David’s general Joab used the occasion to murder his counterpart. He was taking revenge for Abner’s killing of his brother during the ongoing civil war between the Israel and Judah (II Samuel 3:1-30).

David was appalled at Joab’s actions and disavowed any participation in them. However, he acknowledged that he was too weak to confront his general. David’s response was to tell his men,”May the LORD repay the evildoer according to his evil deeds (II Samuel 3:38)!”

David understood something which he wrote lyrics about in his own song in the Book of Psalms.  He comprehended that he belonged to God (Psalm 24:1).

To me this is the first step in making a change. I have to remember Whose I am. 

When forces out there seek to enslave me, whether it be addictions, human oppressors, or the Evil One himself, I have to remember to Whom I owe my allegiance.

You alone are my strength my shield
To You alone may my spirit yield
You alone are my heart’s desire
And I long to worship Thee

As the deer panteth for the water
So my soul longeth after Thee
You alone are my heart’s desire
And I long to worship Thee

You’re my friend
And You are my brother
Even though You are a King
I love You more than any other
So much more than anything

I want You more than gold
Or silver
Only You can satisfy
You alone are the real joygiver
And the apple of my eye (Lyrics by Martin Nystrom)

Tonight,tonight, I see the only way to real change in my life is not through indifference or checking out. It is through every moment of every day relinguishing my life to Jesus.

It’s His anyway, but the obedience part has sure been the hardest thing I have ever had to learn.

 

 

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Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.  And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.  To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen (I Peter 5:8-11).

Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,
Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home;
A charm from the sky seems to hallow us there,
Which, seek through the world, is ne’er met with elsewhere.
Home, home, sweet, sweet home!
There’s no place like home, oh, there’s no place like home!

Even if your home is dangerous and could get you killed, this is true for us all. A prime example comes from two characters in Season 4 of “The Wire”, a  series about the streets of my hometown, Baltimore.

Omar Little is a killer, pure and simple. However, he has been framed for one particular murder of a woman in a store which he didn’t commit.

Dogged police detective Bunk Moreland doesn’t buy the set up. Despite opposition from the lead detective on the case, he proves Omar’s innocence and gets him released from jail.

He elicits a promise from Omar that there will be no more killing. He also offers to arrange his departure from Baltimore.

Despite its dangers, since he has a lot of enemies on the streets, Omar declines. Baltimore is all he knows.

The same holds true for the man who helped set him up, the convenience store owner Old Face Andre.  He goes to see East Baltimore drug kingpin Proposition Joe for protection since he has snitched and told the police who really killed the woman.

At first Andre rejects Proposition Joe’s offer to get him out of Baltimore. However, he wants to stay in his hometown.

Finally, Andre realizes he doesn’t have much choice. Things don’t end well for him, as Proposition Joe actually turns him over to the muscle of West Baltimore druglord Marlo Stansfield who actually committed the murder. They kill him for going to the cops.

I can understand these crooks’ desire to stay at home. It’s where we became the people we are and learned what we know.

In my case, I also consider Virginia my home. I spent my formative years in its southwest mountain regions, and call it my permanent residence today.

However, I am now on an overseas work assignment without my family. It’s not easy being away from home.

If I could go anywhere else in the world, be transported there like a crew member of the starship Enterprise of Star Trek fame, I would choose to go there. I miss my family.

It was on one winter (actually summer for me)  day,from my home I went away Far away from friends and home I longed to roam

But tonight I’m lone and sad, just a little homesick lad
And I’m longing from my old Virginia home

I’m a lad from old Virginia
Bravely knocking my way back home
To that cabin home in the mountain
Never more let me roam (Carter Family)

My contract takes me to the beginning of next summer. I hope to be home with my wife and kids by the summer solstice.

I am longing for old Virginia, for old Virginia and you
And I’m hoping the soul within you is longing for me too
To Virginia, just like the ivy, my heart clings ever true
And I reckon in the spring I’ll bring a little ring
To old Virginia and you

Though tonight I’m far from you and old Virginia
I still love you as I did that day in June
And when springtime comes again to old Virginia
I’ll build a little cottage just for two. (Carter Family)

I was a child in Virginia when I got my first sense of God in my life. When I was in high school in the Baltimore area, I asked Jesus Christ to come into my heart and give me a purpose.

That’s partly the reason I am overseas today. I went to school and got a degree that qualified me to teach abroad because I wanted to go into missions.

Now, it’s a job. It has never turned out the way I thought it would be.

Today I have a sense of nostalgia for what God was doing in my life way back in those old hometowns. In addition, I have a sense of regret.

I think the theme song of “The Wire” tells a story of those kids of Baltimore who don’t hang on to Jesus and keep Satan at bay. Over my checkered life, I have been one of them.

The best version of this song by Tom Waits was performed by the children of Baltimore themselves.

Way Down in the Hole

When you walk through the garden
you gotta watch your back
well I beg your pardon
walk the straight and narrow track
if you walk with Jesus
he’s gonna save your soul
you gotta keep the devil
way down in the hole
he’s got the fire and the fury
at his command
well you don’t have to worry
if you hold on to Jesus hand
we’ll all be safe from Satan
when the thunder rolls
just gotta help me keep the devil
way down in the hole
All the angels sing about Jesus’ mighty sword
and they’ll shield you with their wings
and keep you close to the lord
don’t pay heed to temptation
for his hands are so cold
you gotta help me keep the devil
way down in the hole

I feel at his stage of my life that I have been a little like Saul. He disobeyed the Lord and suffered the consequences.

Before the climactic battle with the Philistines which would eventually take his life, Saul went to a witch to conjure up his old deceased spiritual advisor Samuel. This is because Saul had gone so far from God that he got no message from Him when he sought Him out.

When the witch finally did bring him up, Samuel had no good news for him:

Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?”

 “I am in great distress,” Saul said. “The Philistines are fighting against me, and God has departed from me. He no longer answers me, either by prophets or by dreams. So I have called on you to tell me what to do.”

 Samuel said, “Why do you consult me, now that the LORD has departed from you and become your enemy? The LORD has done what he predicted through me. The LORD has torn the kingdom out of your hands and given it to one of your neighbors—to David. Because you did not obey the LORD or carry out his fierce wrath against the Amalekites, the LORD has done this to you today. The LORD will deliver both Israel and you into the hands of the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. The LORD will also give the army of Israel into the hands of the Philistines.”

 Immediately Saul fell full length on the ground, filled with fear because of Samuel’s words. His strength was gone, for he had eaten nothing all that day and all that night.

Ironically, Saul’s persecution of David has led to the latter’s exile. David is on the run and far from home because of Saul, who has allowed Satan to come out of his hole and ruin him.

Jack White of the band White Stripes wrote the lyrics to “Seven Nation Army”, which won a Grammy mainly because of its guitar riff. However, it is the lyrics that strike yours truly.

Some say the song is about the opposition and troubles he and his partner Meg White faced as they became popular.  In the song, the protagonist is ready to chuck it all and head for home:

I’m gonna fight ’em all
A nation army couldn’t hold me back
They’re gonna rip it off
Taking their time right behind my back

And I’m talking to myself at night
Because I can’t forget
Back and forth through my mind
Behind a cigarette
And the message coming from my eyes
Says leave it alone

Don’t want to hear about it
Every single one’s got a story to tell
Everyone knows about it
From the Queen of England to the hounds of hell

And if I catch it coming back my way
I’m gonna serve it to you
And that aint what you want to hear
But thats what I’ll do
And the feeling coming from my bones
Says find a home

I’m going to Wichita
Far from this opera for evermore
I’m gonna work the straw
Make the sweat drip out of every pore
And I’m bleeding, and I’m bleeding, and I’m bleeding
Right before the lord
All the words are gonna bleed from me
And I will sing no more
And the stains coming from my blood
Tell me go back home.

White Stripes released a subsequent album entitled “Get Behind Me Satan”. Jack White himself says it is taken from the temptations of Jesus in Matthew 4.

One of the songs has some lyrics I can relate to here in my exile from home:

I get my friend when I need one
I need someone to be one
I take anybody I can get
And sometimes I wanna call you
And I feel like a pet
And I’m lonely, but I ain’t that lonely yet

I go down to the river
Filled with regret
I go down and I wonder
If there was any reason left
I’ve just before my lungs could get wet
I’m lonely, but I ain’t that lonely yet

I think perhaps one of the greatest temptations Satan can throw at me is the feeling of loneliness.  When I get that way, it is hard to keep Satan down in the hole.

There are illicit ways of handling that loneliness. However, heading in that direction would only spring Satan’s fire and fury.

He is out there seeking any way he can to devour me. I know it.

As the song says, when I am lonely I gotta watch my back, hold on to Jesus hand and depend on his angels to deliver me from temptation.

Maybe if I do this, I’ll make it home in one piece.

 

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Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls,  yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights (Habakkuk 3:17-19).

THE BUCKETS

 
 

I didn’t get this comic, because I didn’t understand the term “Parkour”. Therefore, I looked it up Parkour.

Here is what that great, sometimes unreliable, Internet source Wikipedia says about it:

Parkour (sometimes abbreviated PK) is a method of movement focused on moving around obstacles with speed and efficiency. Originally developed in France, the main purpose of the discipline is to teach participants how to move through their environment by vaulting, rolling, running, climbing and jumping. Traceurs (parkour practitioners) train to be able to identify and utilize alternate or the more efficient paths.

Now I get the humor of  comic.

Woman: “Toby, are you running from the bullies at school?”

Toby: “It’s only cool if you call it Parkour.”

Just running from his those seeking to beat on him isn’t cool to the boy. However, if fleeing from them involves an avante garde activity, then  it’s what the people in the 60s called “groovy”.

People who particpate in PK are called “traceurs”. The unofficial motto of those who are engaged in the movement is “to be and to last”.

Obviously this is the goal of the Bucket kid. If he is truly running cool, he is actually developing his self confidence and critical thinking skills according to the traceurs.

Philosophically, Parkour is characterized by freedom and the lack of competition. Thus, having a dedicated site for doing this kind of activity is contradictory to PK’s purpose.

Furthermore, it is a practice which involves the reclamation of humans. Doing PK is supposed to help the enthusiast interact with the world, not be protected by it.

Traceurs prefer real places with real obstacles. This is why Parkour is practiced in gyms, offices, parks and abandoned buildings.

Even the British military has begun to incorporate it in their training. In addition, the United States Marine Corp is introducing Parkour.

PK is really nothing new. This free running style has been around since Neandrathal days.

Prior to the First World War, Georges Hebert went to Africa and noticed the agility of the the people in the tribes there. He began to develop PK-like training based on the following traits:

  • Energetic or virile sense: energy, willpower, courage, coolness, and firmness
  • Moral sense: benevolence, assistance, honor, and honesty
  • Physical sense: muscles and breath

Despite the potential dangers, Parkour appears at its core to develop positive aspects in its advocates.

 This morning when I read  an episode of the life of David in the Bible (I Samuel 27), I questioned his state of honor at this time. It didn’t seem like the experience, which involved his fleeing to the Philistines and away from the bully King Saul, was very positive or right.

David seemed to possess during this period some dishonorable characteristics. They included to me fear, cowardice, and dishonesty.

However, I am now reconsidering my thoughts about David’s jaunt to the Philistines. I think he might have been engaging in an ancient form of Parkour.

David surely was attempting to survive (“to be and to last”). In addition, he was seeking to find the best method to get around his obstacles, which mainly involved King Saul and the thousands of men he was employing to hunt him down in Israel.

In addition, David didn’t ask to be sheltered from harm in Philistia. He asked the Philistine king  Achish to let him live in the free and open spaces of the countryside instead of in the well-protected   royal city.

David wanted his freedom and he got it. He wouldn’t allow other men, including the two most powerful men in his region, to control him.

It is possible that David moved over to Philistia in order to train himself, his family and his men for the future. After all, he had been anointed as the future king of Israel by the prophet Samuel at God’ direction and would need to prepare for the day he inherited that responsibility.

While among the Philistines, he and his followers kept fit in the qualities needed  in the art of war, and continued to assist Israel in fighting its historic enemies. Sure he lied to King Achich concerning whom he had fought against on his raids, but this can be written off to clever strategy against the Philistines, who were also long-time enemies of Israel (I Samuel 27:8-12).

As the life of David shows, things are not always as they seem. Boys running from bullies may actually be developing themselves.

I have recently become a big fan of the HBO series called “The Wire”. Although I am a Johnny-Come-Lately to the show, I am looking at old DVDs and continue to be intrigued by its portrayal of my hometown of Baltimore, which has been called “gritty”, but is constantly trying to escape that image.

In this series, just about everyone is trying their best to make the best of a bad environment.  The worst off are the African American kids in the ‘hood.  With drug dealers controlling their neighborhoods, they have a tough time not becoming involved in the crime and the business.

For example, middle schooler Michael Lee sells drugs. However, he has kept his self respect and freedom by bravely resisting the enticements of Marlo Stansfield, the young new kingpin of the drug trade.

Another middle schooler, Randy Wagstaff, has unwittingly become an accessory to murder. He was told by those involved in the killing to tell the victim that a young woman was waiting for him in a park. There, the victim was taken away and put to death.

Randy is greatly disturbed by his inadvertent role in the killing when he learns the truth. Yet, he isn’t totally pure. 

He continues to walk  a difficult line between goodness and evil. The police consider him a good kid, however,  and do their best to protect him.

The police are also moving and shaking to survive, even thrive. For example, rebellious detective Jimmy McNulty takes a demotion to patrol officer in order to straighten out his life.

Dedicated police such as Major Crimes Kima Greggs and Lester Freamon manage their way out of the division when a politically motivated new boss comes in as a “unit killer”. They move over to Homicide where they can continue to maintain their nobility as real police.

Life surely deals us what appears to be a bad hand at times. It would behoove us, though, to step back and consider what really may be going on.

It could be the Lord wants to use the circumstances so that we engage in a little Parkour.  What may seem like like disastrous slavery could  really be God’s means to give us our freedom.

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“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror  and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do (James 1:22-25).”

“Don’t matter how many times you get burnt, you just keep doin’ the same.” – Bodie, in an episode of the HBO series “The Wire”.

In the hard streets of my hometown of Baltimore, as they are portrayed in the TV show “The Wire”, drugs are a hot commodity. In fact, they are a “hot potato”.

You might remember this children’s game. A group of kids stand in a circle and pass around a bean bag (the hot potato) while music is playng. When the music stops, the person left holding the “hot potato” is out of the game.

In once scene of an episode called “Time After Time”, a squad of police are planning a sting on a corner drug deal operation. The sergeant of the group tells the officers to ignore a “runner” when they show up because, inevitably, he will not have the stash of drugs.

When the police arrive, a runner comes down the street as expected. He runs to a hiding place and picks up a bag and keeps running.

The sergeant changes his mind and the police pursue the boy. However, he loses them and the drugs indeed remained in the hands of the dealers in any case.

In another scene, a legendary drug runner named Cutty is released from jail after 14 years. A drug boss in the prison with him gives Cutty a phone number to call when he gets out so he can receive a homecoming “gift”.

The present is a large amount of narcotics. Cutty sits in his house amidst the stash thinking about how to deal with it.

Cutty observes a dealer one day making sales and approaches him. He doesn’t want to sell the stuff himself as he just got out of jail and doesn’t want to risk going back.

Cutty makes a deal and turns his drug stash over to the dealer. Of course, when Cutty returns for his money, the dealer stiffs him.

Cutty has no recourse because the dealer pulls a weapon on him. There isn’t any paper trail either.

In “The Wire”, the dealers, especially the big bosses, are very careful to avoid being caught with any connection to the drug trade. To them, the drugs are a hot potato to be kept out of their hands.

The police try awfully hard to position themselves to catch the leaders with drugs. However, this is well nigh impossible because the dealers are clever and know the game. They don’t want to be tossed from the game and end up in prision.

The Bible had its own “hot potato”. It was called the Ark of the Covenant.

The Ark was built in Moses’s time to house the Ten Commandments, which were written by the hand of God. It was a holy piece of furniture, not to be treated cavalierly.

How one fared when they came into contact with the Ark all depended on their attitude toward it. If they treated it with holy respect and treated is as the gift of God it was, then they fared well. However, if anyone disrespected the Ark and its status as coming from the Holy God, then they suffered for it.

The Ark once fell into the hands of Israel’s enemy, the Philistines. They put it on display next to their god Dagon.

The Philistines casual atttitude in handling the Ark, treating as a symbol of another god in a pantheon, was not pleasing to God. After their god had been half demolished and their people afflicted with tumors, the Philistines wanted nothing to do with the Ark. 

When the leaders called for the priests and diviners to tell them what to do, they were given a history lesson. The religious leaders told them:

“Why do you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh did? When Israel’s god dealt harshly with them, did they not send the Israelites out so they could go on their way? (I Samuel 6:6).

The religious leaders of the Philistines told their boss’s to send the thing away and to do it with a proper honorarium. They did just that, sticking it on a cart with some golden symbols and sending it in the direction of Israel.

When the first town in Israel received the Ark, the people rejoiced. They held sacrifices and a celebration.

However, some of the people were no better than the Philistines. They treated the Ark as a carnival-like curiosity and pried off its lid to see inside. These people died.

When this town saw this, they didn’t want this hot potato. They sent it away to another town.

The people of this new town obviously knew how to respect God and His Ark. They appointed a priest, who guarded it. This town kept the Ark for 20 years (I Samuel 7:1,2).

The Ark obviously could be detrimental to your health. It was no wonder people treated it like a hot potato.

One man touched the ark on its cart when the oxen stumbled, and the Scriptures called it an “irreverent act” .  God killed him right then and there  (II Samuel 6:6,7).

King David was not happy about God’s actions here. Indeed, he was angry and also afraid of God afterwards.  He dished it over to someone else like a hot potato (II Samuel 6:8-10).

This fellow named Obed-Edom The Gittite housed it for three months and his whole family was blessed (II Samuel 6:10-11).  Perhaps this Ark was not such a hot potato do be gotten rid of after all.

We believers today may not have an Ark pass our way anytime soon, but God does offer us its equivalent: His holiness. My experience with this modern “ark” is that I treat it like a hot potato, also.

I say I want it, but I am not willing to take it seriously. When I interact with this thing called “holiness” and don’t follow God’s recipe, I end up getting burned like the people of old in Palestine who didn’t handle the Ark correctly.

Like them, I am just to cavalier about God and obedience to Him. God doesn’t take kindly to this kind of double-mindedness (See James 1:5-7).

Like the Ten Commandments in the Ark, my new birth in Christ is a gift. I actually have His Word and His Spirit planted in my heart (James 1:17,18).

Is it any wonder that God smacks me when I ignore the holiness He has given me as if it was an old relic in a box to be pulled out when I felt like it?  When I get mad or sulk over His rebuke, it just sends me farther away from what God wants of me (James 1:19-21).

Those Ten Commandments that were from the hand of God are now imprinted on my soul. If I am serious about them, I know where to find them.

The question is,”Am I?” Or do I intend to keep playing with fire and getting burned?

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