Life, Madison House

What is Privilege?

I simply don’t care about how much I have or don’t have.

I have privileges that no one can take away.

For instance, someone in high school asked me once if I was upset that prayer in school had been banned.  “No,” I responded, “I still pray everyday, on my own, in private. Nothing can stop me from petitioning God.”

In the iconic movie, Silence of the Lambs, the antagonist serial killer, Hannibal Lecter, drives home a hard to follow Biblical point that God has been communicating to mankind since Cain killed Abel:

Hannibal Lecter: No! He covets. That is his nature. And how do we begin to covet, Clarice? Do we seek out things to covet? Make an effort to answer now.

Clarice Starling: No. We just…

Hannibal Lecter: No. We begin by coveting what we see every day.

 

This is referred to in Scripture as the, “Lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh, and pride of life.”  I see something that I want, and I decide that I have to have it.  I then set in motion the steps to take it by any means possible.

The desire to have more or get more than we need is non-biblical and leads to murder, strife, theft…you get the point.

So what does God’s Word say about privilege?

The common story of Job is not lost in this.  Job who had everything and lost everything had this to say about privilege:

Job 1:21, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked I shall return there.  The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.”

Essentially he is saying, “I started with nothing, I will end with nothing. Anything I am given in life is God’s, and His to give and take away.”

Or as James says, in James 1:17, “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.”

 

Think of it this way.  If you are angry at someone else for having more than you do then ultimately, you are angry at God.

God has blessed them, and that’s not your decision what they do or don’t do with that blessing.

Scenario:

There’s a knock at the door, you answer it and a man is standing there.

You’ve never seen him before but he seems vaguely familiar.

“Yes?” You ask.

“Hey,” he says smiling, “I couldn’t help noticing when you and your wife were at Starbucks, earlier today, that she is a beautiful woman.  Unfortunately my wife isn’t as hot as yours,” (he holds up a picture of her) “so I’m going to come into your house and have sex with your spouse, otherwise it just wouldn’t be fair.”

You and I both know you’re not going to let him in.  Any man who really loved his wife wouldn’t give her away to a best friend, let alone a perfect stranger.  In fact this scenario seems ridiculous.

Is it?

Isn’t this what men are really saying when they look at porn and chase after other women? Or what women are expressing when they read Erotica.  The pressure wives put their husbands under to bring home more money so they can have nicer things, or the pressure men apply to their wives to have “better bodies” and “look more attractive, like so and so’s wife?”

We’re saying that the blessing God has given us in a spouse or lack thereof, isn’t good enough.

Philippians 4:19 is so easy to quote but so difficult to put into action on a belief level.

“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”

Our needs (spiritual, physical and emotional) are satisfied, (NEEDS, NOT EARTHLY DESIRES), are satisfied in a relationship with the person; Christ Jesus.

And coveting what others have (politically, sexually, financially, socially, etc.) is a sin.

Exodus 20:17, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

How has this verse been forgotten?

Looking over the fence and wanting the same privileges that your neighbors have only leads to sin.

James 3:16

“For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. ”

Conversely, how has this passage been pushed aside?

Mark 12:44

They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything–all she had to live on.”

Rich, poor, whatever color, green alien blood, I don’t care; we can all give what we have to the service of Jesus.

Romans 12:15

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”

When someone has been blessed by God in any way, I’m excited for them.  I’ve been there – it’s a really cool experience to be blessed by God in a financial, spiritual or emotional way.  When people come on hard times, I feel great sorrow and try to do all I can to help.  I’ve been there – parental suicide, eating out of the garbage in Seattle, friends and kids we work with dying, and so on.

Let’s move forward with a loving Christ-like response instead of enviously longing for the same privileges as others or selfishly holding back the blessings He has given us that were meant to be shared with all.

Am I obsessed with the things that are supposed to be given unto Cesar or am I seeking first the kingdom of God?  This country will fade away as all other nations before it and end up as nothing more than a page in some kid’s history book.  Do we really want that child reading that the American legacy was about fighting over who had the most stuff or rights?

I want the privilege of being thankful despite the ups and downs of my circumstances.

I want the privilege of always responding in love, weather I agree with you or not.

I want the privilege of sharing in others pain…and their joy.

I want the privilege of being able to give without expecting anything in return.

I want to love my wife and children in such a powerful way that no financial gift could ever replace that love.

I’m going to ask myself every day:

Have I given enough?

Have I given to those in real need and not to those who greedily demand that I do so? (Pray for wisdom and discernment in this area, a lot of scams out there.)

Am I following/talking to Jesus Christ each day and seeking to use my gifts and talents for him?

You’re welcome to join me, but if you don’t…John 21:21-22. (I wrote down all the other ones for you, you can open your Bible just once.:) )

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life, Madison House, Marriage

Everything that’s Wrong with my Spouse

There’s a mental exercise I’ve done with people that work for or with me.

It goes something like this:

Think of someone you don’t like; they bug you, you can’t explain why.   It’s just something about them that always seems to push you over the edge.  Do you have that person in mind?

It’s immediate recall for most people.

Now ask yourself this,  “When posed with the same question, who is thinking of me?  Who do I annoy, damage, push to extremes?  Who comes to work grinding their teeth knowing I’m going to be there?”

When I was in college, people had a different list.  They had a list of everything they desired in a life partner;  short, fat, thin, educated, artistic, political, social, handsome, perfect body, etc…

I would often ask people making these lists, “Whose list are you on?”

“What?”  They would look confused.

“What I mean to say is,” I continued, “Whose list would you be on? Are you the same level of excellence that you’re demanding from another person?”

And this is the heart of most marital problems: we want something from the other person that they are unwilling or unable to give us, and it pushes us apart.

With this in mind, early in my relationship with Kimberley and into our marriage, I started making lists.

Lists of everything that Kimberley did well.  If the Woman at the Well and Solomon taught us anything, it’s this: that no matter how many people of the opposite sex you blow through like used Kleenex, it will only leave you unsatisfied.

Satisfaction only comes in marriage when you give sacrificially instead of expecting unconditional love and surrender.

Here’s a list of Kimberley’s recent rights:

She is always honest.  She is kind in her honesty.

She admits her mistakes.  I’ve never met a more humble woman.

She loves children and homeschools our own four while working alongside me in a part-time position at Madison House, helping 200 other emotionally/spiritually needy children.

We clear every purchase with each other and always know what’s in our accounts.

I’ve always felt she was super sexy but this spring she put herself on a food/exercise program where she went from a size fourteen down to a size two….Seriously, so hot.

Every day she reads her Bible. Every day.  That’s Hot.

She did a three part, two day speaking engagement this fall at a church…And got paid to do it.

She makes birthdays and holidays extra special for myself and the kids.

She’s such a classy dresser and her skin is flawless, she looks 29…AND IS 29!!!

She is very wise. She guides me away from women with wrong intentions.

She loves Jesus before she loves me, and for this I love her the most.

When you love your spouse and focus on what is pure and perfect about them, the things that are wrong seem unimportant and are easy hurdles to overcome.  Make a list of compliments.  Make a list of things you can do to help around the house.  Lift their spirits and encourage them in the good they are doing.  It is so easy and cheap to be negative, and yet we know from experience and wisdom passed down that anything good comes from hard work and sacrifice.

Jesus loves the Church sacrificially, dying for us.  This is how I hope to love my wife, dying to self.

 

 

 

 

 

Life, Madison House

Missing Children

Story One.

The phone won’t stop ringing. Why is there a phone call in this dream?

It’s 2:30am, and the police are calling.   I arrive at work to find empty bottles of alcohol, drugs, an underage girl, and six drug dealers.

Later we find guns, a backpack full of acid, marijuana, cocaine, meth, more guns and so on.

 

The police ask, “Do you want to press charges?”

“For what? All you have them on is possibly trespassing because no one is claiming the drugs and guns.”

The officer shrugs as if to say, “You’re right.”

“No,” I sigh, “Just get them out of here.”

 

Story Two.

“Tony,  check out what I brought to school today.”  He bypasses the code on his cell phone and shows me a picture of his open backpack.

“Is that a submachine gun?” I ask.

“Yeah,” he laughs. “I took it to school today to protect myself. It’s a MAC 11.”

He is 15 years old.

He’s in jail now for attempted murder. Told me once he started out dealing Marijuana in the fifth grade and just kept moving up in the gangs.  More drugs, guns and money.

I’m told if you fire your gun, you just throw it in the river. Deal some more drugs and go and buy a new one. All you need is $200 to a local drug dealer/arms dealer.

 

Story Three. 

Smart kid, always liked him, great personality; kind of kid I would have hired to work at my business.  Personable, could sell anything.

Apparently the drug dealers and gangs thought the same thing.

Last year, while high on acid he put a gun in his mouth and blew his brains out.  I had just given him a new bike and was helping him fix it a few weeks before that.

 

Conclusion.

I could go on and on, but the truth is most of the kids we work with are from single parent homes where drugs, that started with Marijuana, ruined entire families.

Story after story that I could relate about how drugs, gangs, violence and all the money they’re connected to is ruining our society, but I don’t think anyone would listen too closely because of one key word I put in this sentence: MONEY.

And that’s what it always comes down to.

We want something;  PRIDE OF LIFE, LUST OF THE EYES, LUST OF THE FLESH (1 John 2:16) and we’ll come up with reams of statistics and analytical data in order to justify our desire to get what we want.

In this case, money.

I don’t care if the money is going to legal drugs or illegal drugs.

It’s all drugs. 

I don’t care if Marijuana is more or less addictive than other drugs; it’s still addictive and leads to harder drugs.

Final Thought.

“Hey Tony, my dad blew my uncle’s leg off with a shotgun and is in prison for life; all over a drug deal gone wrong.  I was there and witnessed the event, and then I tried to hang myself.  If my mom hadn’t found me hanging in my bedroom and pulled me down I’d be dead right now.  I was 7 years old.”

I have four children of my own and I want them to have better future.

 

Jesus Said in Matthew 18:6;

“If anyone causes one of these little ones-those who believe in me–to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to drowned in the depths of the sea.”

Jesus Said in Matthew 19:14;

“Let the little children come unto Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

Every day I’m going to lead children towards Jesus.

That’s all I can do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life, Madison House

Sex Trade.

“The lights go out and I can’t be saved.” -Chris Martin-

 

I’ve received fantastic feedback on my book; everyone that gets into it says the same thing without prompting, “I couldn’t put it down!”

For this praise, I am very thankful.  Then there’s this follow-up, “It’s very redemptive, and deals with a lot of tough subject matter.”

You ain’t whistlin’ Dixie.  Try writing all that down.  Putting it together was an extremely difficult, very emotional process.  A straight month of sleepless nights.  But would I rather a really tight, fast-paced, action-packed thriller, that no one can put down, or the most boring book you ever read?    I’ll take the pain if it means a great product that deals with social/class/religion, and every issue in between.

Here’s the thing: it’s part of what I see every day.  Children disappearing without a trace, drug dealers, gang-bangers, detectives, racism (from every race), unparalleled class privilege, violence, murder, suicide, prostitutes, religious failure, and redemption.  So instead of asking, “How could you write this?” instead ask the question, “How could anyone live through this?”

Not me, the children I’m working with.

What bothers me the most is what is happening to the girls and women.  Maybe it’s because I know what happened to my wife as a little girl, maybe it’s because I have three beautiful daughters that I don’t wish any harm upon.

“I’m deep inside your children, they’ll betray you in my name.” -Zacharias Manuel de la Rocha-

Two months ago I was walking past “the Blue House.”  All the staff have to walk past this house for different reasons from time to time.  Now and then, when business is slow, they  put the girls out front.  Today was one of those days; but like I said, I have to walk past.

She sees me as I see her and she crosses her fishnet stockinged legs, staring me down, lifting her arms and adjusting her jet black hair.  I haven’t looked directly at her yet but she looks very young, too young.  No one should ever be in this line of work, I don’t care how old they are.  Instead I focus on the pimp behind her.   Out of my peripheral she steps directly in front of me as I approach and opens her stance, staring me down and pasting on a smile.  I’m still watching the pimp, and as I pass her (having to step off the sidewalk to do so because she’s completely blocking the way now), he starts to move towards me while holding out a cigarette, and asking, “Do you have a light?” He realizes that I may be an undercover cop and so, “Do you have a light?” is not really a question, it’s an attempt to re-direct my attention to the poor dolled-up girl on display without really soliciting me for sex.  I also feel compassion on the woman; I’m sure if she doesn’t come on to me as hard as she is, there will be consequences from her pimp.

“No I don’t, I actually work at the youth center with the little kids and am just looking for someone.”

He recoils, more so than if I had slapped him and I keep moving, praying for the poor girl in the thrall of sex and drugs.

“They say the devils water it ain’t so sweet, you don’t have to drink right now, but you can dip your feet every once in a little while.”  -Brandon Flowers-

My little four-year old snuggles into my lap, puts her hands to my face, smiles and says, “I love you, Daddy.”

Tears come to my eyes because she is so sweet and precious. I never want anything to hurt her.

Maybe that’s why I don’t have any judgements on the girl by the blue house or any other woman that’s ever made a pass at me.  All I see is brokenness.  All I see is Rahab the Prostitute, or the Woman at the Well, or the One Caught in Adultery.  Such stories of amazing redemption, and I pray for the women who in their broken marriages and painful daddy issues see me as a way out instead just another trap door.

I see my three daughters and I pray, “Dear God, these women you’ve put into my care will leave this house one day and make their own decisions. Please help them to choose Jesus instead of pain followed by pleasure in an endless vicious circle.”

All I can do is pray and love them, every second, at every opportunity.

My wife has me completely, body, mind, and soul…but only because Jesus has all those things first.

“I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except by Me.”

-Jesus-

 

 

 

 

Life, Madison House

On Bullying. All Fat and Phony

I’ve tried never to be a bully.  I’ve also never taken bullying and have always stood up for myself or ignored it.

I had to;  I was always “the new kid”, “the nerd”, “that religious kid” that no one invites out.

Moving all over the place when we were children…Let me see: Canada, Oregon, Canada, Joseph Oregon, Mt. Vernon Washington, Sublimity Oregon, Dilley Oregon, Canada, Laurel Oregon, Beaverton Oregon, Oceanside Oregon, Hailey Idaho, Seattle Washington, Idaho, Minnesota, Idaho, Canada, Seattle, Canada, Yakima.

There. I’m sure I missed some along the way or got some out-of-order but still, point being, we moved a lot.

Along the way I picked up a nickname.  I believe it was in Dilley Oregon.  We didn’t have much money and my father refused to put us on a government-funded lunch program.  Something about model Americans needing to pull themselves up by the boot straps.  At the age of 6, the metaphor was completely lost on me.  I just knew that I really loved chocolate milk at school and no matter how much I examined my boots, they had no straps.

So every day I took the same items for lunch to school.  Some fruit, apple or orange,  and a Bologna sandwich stuffed in a brown paper bag.  On Fridays, when lucky, I would get a Bologna sandwich with cheese!  When I asked about a beverage, I was told to drink water from the drinking fountain.

Yum, takes like aluminum.

 

So there I was, in the lunch room, skinny and alone with my Bologna sandwich.

“Hey new kid, why do you always bring a sack lunch? You poor?”

“No, I’m hungry. I eat the sack too.”

“Ha! What is that? Bologna sandwich? You like Bologna?”

I sigh and look down at my crumbling food, “Sure, it’s great.”

“What’s your name, new kid?”

“Tony.”

“Cool, what if we call you Tony Bologna All Fat and Phony? Ha, ha! That’s a good one.”

He starts to sing, “Tony Bologna, All Fat and Phony, Tony Bologna All Fat and Phony.  You like that?”  He slaps my shoulder. “Funny, huh?”

I take another bite and give a shrug that involves my upturned palm, eyebrows and shoulders, “Sure, it’s great.”

So that was me for the rest of first grade, ‘Tony Bologna All Fat and Phony.”  I went with it. I somehow instinctively knew that fighting back would garner worse results.

We moved at the end of the school year and the nickname stayed behind, until recently.

A kid was getting picked on at my job so he punched the kid making fun of him.

I pulled him aside and got down on his level, “Hey man, you can’t simply punch everyone that makes fun of you.  Do you know how many people I would have punched by now if I had slugged everyone that called me names?  Even today I have people that don’t like me, talking trash behind my back and tellling lies and saying all kinds of things that aren’t true.  I can’t punch them. You have to let that stuff go and just walk away, otherwise they know they can get to you.”

He frowns unconvinced, so in an effort to cheer him up I say, “Hey, when I was a kid do you know what they called me?”

He shakes his head, still frowning.

“They called me, ‘Tony Bologna All Fat and Phony.'”

A glimmer of a smile twists his countenance, “Really, they called you that?”

“Yeah of course! If you smile and let it roll off your back you become the leader of the joke and not the butt of it.”

He grins and walks away, nodding and saying something under his breath.

And that’s why, for the last six months, wherever I go anywhere at work, kids yell at me with big smiles on their faces,

“What’s up Tony Bologna All Fat and Phony?”

And I smile, point back at them and say, “That’s right! I’m doing great!” And with no emotional response, the joke is getting old on their own lips without me ever having to call it out.

No one can bully you unless you let them and there are innumerable ways of fighting back, the last resort being physical confrontation.

Blessed are the Peacemakers.