Barrels of Monkeys

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“My problems go from bad to worse.
    Oh, save me from them all!”

Psalm 25:17

If you are over 40 or so, you would’ve known about this simple toy. Today, a little girl came up to me to show me her singular monkey. She insisted its origins were from the animated movie “Toy Story.” I told he she was suffering from delusions and began to instill the real story. She basically told me that I was the one who was thoroughly nuts, and she quickly became very skeptical of anything I would say next. (It’s hard to connect with this younger generation, lol.)

In my mind I achieved a moral victory, but it was short-lived. It wasn’t enough to do a “fist-pump” or a touchdown dance I craved to do. The way I figured things, old age has to count for some bonifide wisdom. My gray hair reminds me that I can speak with supreme authority about toy monkeys without recriminations.

Sometimes God gives us a barrel of squirmy, tricky monkeys. He watches what we do with them. This barrel could be a marriage, child rearing, a job, sickness, addictions, physical or mental illnesses. There are a lot of barrels out there. You could easily triple this list, and still need to add something.

The antics of monkeys, their tricks and misbehaviors are well known. Barrels of monkeys are embarrassing, they throw their own feces for God’s sake.  But they are still the elite masters of physical comedy in the animal kingdom. They are the Jay Lenos and Robin Williams of the zoo. You can’t subdue them, except with a tranquilizing gun, or some fermenting bananas.

Monkey barrels are tough. We usually are not steady enough, or patient enough to play the game. I submit it takes guts to play with the whole barrel, and taking short-cuts violate some kind of rule somewhere. Our faith should steady us. But the barrel only baffles us.

But the Spirit has come to assist us.

His presence helps us get by every barrel and every chimp, but we have to ask for help. I encourage you to get desperate. These monkeys can be tamed, and you need to do this. Time is never the issue. But how you behave is the true evaluation.

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.”

Romans 5:3, NLT

 

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Sometimes I Haven’t the Slightest, [Oblivious}

“Ah yes, the Shroud of Turin! We will have to dry clean it before we return it.”

Inspector Clouseau, (Upon discovering stolen artifacts) in The Pink Panther 2

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I honestly think that our bumbling attempts to follow Jesus are entertaining angels who watch our efforts and shake their heads in astonishment. ” Did you see what Bryan just did?”  I guess I’m the “Inspector Clouseau of the spiritual realm.”  Clumsy and very much oblivious, I bungle my way down the path of discipleship, without a clue. It seems when something right happens, I still end up butchering it.

We  have experienced so much, been given so much light, and yet we consistently choose to trade it for a lie. For the most part, I don’t sin automatically, I choose it, consciencely and deliberately.  People don’t sin because they feel they have to. We sin because we like the pleasure it brings. We sin because it feels nice. We sin because it brings a thrill to our bodies, fleeting satisfaction to our souls and excitement to the boredom of our everyday lives.  We sin because we believe the lie that the pleasure it brings, though passing (Heb. 11:25), is more satisfying than the pleasure obedience brings.

The issues I have are medical and psychological.  I have chronic Hepatitis C.  I survived a brain tumor and I need to walk with a cane.  I do have a bad case of Bipolar disorder. I have some struggles with paranoid delusions and social anxiety. These are forgivable and God gives me buckets of grace.  I know first-hand his agape love for me.

But he cannot bless disobedience and rebellion.  When we announce to the world that “Jesus is Lord” we can expect God will hold our feet to the fire over this.  The Holy Spirit will not negotiate when we suddenly decide we are hungry for sin.  Apprehended by grace, we must fully surrender all claim we have to sample sin’s delights.

In the middle of my psychiatric issues, I must remember joy.  I can not imagine being without it.  I’ve been clinically depressed to the point of suicide many times.  But God gives me joy in my darkness.  “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah)

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From a Mental Hospital Ward, [Crushed]

3 For the enemy has pursued my soul; he has crushed my life to the ground; he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead.”

Psalm 143:3

Some time ago,  I was hospitalized for my mental illness. (Actually seven times.) And though each time was bitter, but the Lord carried me.  They would take from me my shoelaces, and belts, and fingernail clippers.  Basically, I was stripped of everything, anything that I might use to harm myself. But I was creative, I took a clock off the wall and rolled it in a blanket,  I smashed it and used the shards of glass to cut my wrists.The nurses were exceptionally observant, and within moments they intervened.

I had already been stripped, searched, and then brought into a ward full of very sick people.  Much of all of this is a terrible glazed blur.  There was a real awareness of unreality.  I was quite confused, and it would take several weeks before I could reconnect.  Things were no longer ‘reasonable’ and I could discern nothing.  But I didn’t know I was so confused (but I did suspect it). The staff were quite aware and accommodating.  They let me be, so time could take care of the rest. I needed to unravel things  

Besides, Jesus knew exactly where I was if I didn’t.

Days rolled by, quite slowly.  The tedium of a mental hospital is the worst— much more difficult than jail or prison.  You walk in a very limited corridor, back and forth.  You wait for your shrink, and wait, and wait.  You pace, and pace. You pray, stupidly.  The other patients were equally disturbed.  There was a great variety among them.  One guy would urinate in any corner. Once he jumped up on the nurses station, and took a “whizz.” It was hysterical.  He almost shorted out their computer.

In all of this, there was a very bleak and strange awareness, of being incredibly ‘detached,’ and only remotely aware that something was not right with me.  I tried to get well, but I was mentally lost.  I paced, and I remained confused.  I was most definitely in an ugly place.  Desperate and increasingly bewildered, I knew I had no place to go.  A fine place for someone who used to pastor, and teach at a Bible college.

If you have been in this place, you will recognize the ‘lostness’ of being on a ward of a mental hospital. It is confusion mixed with despair,  and without a part of very strong drugs, and there is nothing you can do to be released.  And really until you come to this fact, they will never let you go.  They wait for you to snap out of your confusion, unfortunately that takes time. Sometimes many weeks and whole months. Sometimes never.

It’s worse when you have a family.  In my case it was my wife, and two small children.  This at times, would twist my heart.  I would get a very short phone call, once a week.  But this was quite difficult.  I gained very little from those calls, and I found myself quite disturbed after each call.  Being on this ward tinged me completely. It was like being dipped into darkness.  I was very much affected.  Now on the outside, I admit I was quite disturbed, but at the time I honestly did not understand a way out.

Dear friend, having a mental illness is cruel and disturbing.  And being committed to a mental hospital is a desperate thing.  Having passed through its locked doors is something you will never forget.  The way I figure these seven hospitalizations have stolen over six months of my life. Its work is irrevocable, its fingerprints will be on your life, for as long as you live.  But God will bring good out of this. This I know.

“Do not gloat over me, my enemy!
    Though I have fallen, I will rise.
Though I sit in darkness,
    the Lord will be my light.”

Micah 7:8

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Christians Changing Light Bulbs

How many Christians does it take to change a light bulb?


Charismatics:
Only one. Hands already in the air.

Pentecostals:
Ten. One to change the bulb, and nine to pray against the spirit of  darkness.

Presbyterians:
None. Lights will go on and off at predestined times.

Roman Catholic:
None. Candles only.

Baptists:
At least 15. One to change the light bulb, and three committees to approve the change and decide who brings the potato salad.

Episcopalians:
Three. One to call the electrician, one to mix the drinks and one to talk about how much better the old one was.

Mormons:
Five. One man to change the bulb, and four wives to tell him how to do it.

Unitarians:
We choose not to make a statement either in favor of or against the need for a light bulb. However, if in your own journey you have found that light bulbs work for you, that is fine. You are invited to write a poem or compose a modern dance about your light bulb for the next Sunday service, in which we will explore a number of light bulb traditions, including incandescent, fluorescent, three-way, long-life and tinted, all of which are equally valid paths to luminescence.

Methodists:
Undetermined. Whether your light is bright, dull, or completely out, you are loved. You can be a light bulb, turnip bulb, or tulip bulb. Church wide lighting service is planned for Sunday. Bring bulb of your choice and a covered dish.

Nazarene:
Six. One woman to replace the bulb while five men review church lighting policy.

Lutherans:
None. Lutherans don’t believe in change.

Amish:
What’s a light bulb?

“Let’s Trade Your Salvation” by Isaac Air Freight

Episode: “Let’s Trade Your Salvation”

Isaac Air Freight was a Christian comedy team first formed in 1976. It originally consisted of three people, Dave Toole, Dan Rupple, and Larry Watt. Watt left after the release of their first album. He was replaced by Mitch Teemley, who largely did serious or “good guy” parts, for the second and third albums. (Watt and Teemley did not contribute to the writing. After leaving Isaac Air Freight, Teemley formed the team Mitch & Allen for which he wrote as well as acted.)

Rupple and Toole released five more Isaac Air Freight albums. The last of these, Over Our Heads (1987), featured contributions from members of Christian rock band Daniel Amos.

Comedy is not our usual fare here on BB, and maybe that should change.  IAF brought a slightly more sophistication to the Church theater or skit scene.  They inspired a lot of believers to work in the creative arts.  In some sense I suppose you could describe them as a Christian version of Monty Python, but that isn’t a real good analogy either.

Here at BB we have the Contemporary Christian Music Index.  It is a link that opens up early Christian music of the 70s-80s.  You’ll find this index (which is constantly growing,  https://brokenbelievers.com/?s=CCM

 

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Internet Funnies: Muppets in Trouble

In 40 seasons, Sesame Street has featured over 1,000 characters. Although we’ll always have mainstays like Big Bird, Elmo, Bert and Ernie, many Muppets have been forgotten or deemed unnecessary. Here are a few Sesame Street residents who were evicted, or just created a stir.

1. Roosevelt Franklin

roosevelt-franklinPerhaps the most famous of the retired Sesame Street Muppets is Roosevelt Franklin. Originally voiced by Matt Robinson, who portrayed the first Gordon on Sesame Street, Roosevelt was an African-American Muppet who had his own school (named Roosevelt Franklin Elementary School). He often taught the class important lessons about things such as the geography of Africa and how to avoid drinking poison.

Parents wrote to the Children’s Television Workshop to complain that Roosevelt was a negative stereotype of African-American children, citing his rowdy nature and the fact that his classes closely resembled after-school detention. Roosevelt only lasted from 1970-1975, but he has appeared in many Sesame Street books, and it was recently revealed that he will make an appearance in the background of an episode of Sesame Street in the upcoming 40th season.

2. Harvey Kneeslapper

harveyIf a Muppet with a ’70s porn mustache and googly eyes offers to keep an eye on your hat, run the other way. Chances are he’s Harvey Kneeslapper, and he’s about to crush your fedora with an oversized letter I. Harvey pulled practical jokes on unsuspecting victims—jokes featuring bad puns about letters and numbers. Harvey was his own biggest fan, laughing loudly at his gags. One person who didn’t care for Harvey’s trademark laugh was his performer, Frank Oz, who complained that performing the character was too hard on his throat.

3.  There’s an HIV-Positive Muppet

kami
In 2002, Sesame Workshop released a statement saying that they would be introducing an HIV-positive Muppet to Sesame Street. What most people in the U.S. missed was that Kami, the Muppet in question, would not be appearing on the domestic version of Sesame Street, but the South African version, which is called Takalani Sesame. The producers of Takalani Sesame agreed that an HIV-positive Muppet would be beneficial because South Africa has the highest percentage of AIDS-infected people in the world, many of which are children. People became outraged that PBS would allow a children’s show to feature an HIV-positive character, and news sources and pundits went to town on the story. Kami never appeared on the American Sesame Street, though she has proven to be a very successful character on Takalani Sesame.

4. Professor Hastings

professor-hastingsIf there’s one thing kids like, it’s boring lectures. That’s why Sesame Street introduced Professor Hastings, a Muppet whose lectures were so boring, he’d put himself to sleep. And as entertaining as an educational narcoleptic might be, the dull Professor didn’t last long.

For a bunch more ‘failed muppets and basic muppetology’ go to Mental Floss at:

http://blogs.static.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/40275.html