The Starving Activist is the sometimes-home for words. AR Neal (that’s me) finds them, cultivates them, and leaves them here. Enjoy.

Easter, 2014: Confessions, Sermons, and Smiles

It was 7:45am; "That was the doorbell," my Christopher says over the din of dog barks. They all heard what I didn't, but as I move toward the front door I see a sillouette. I dash off to release the hounds to the backyard, lest they eat said unsuspecting guest, and return to open the door. It is our friend from the neighborhood; "Yesterday was my birthday!" he proudly announces. I usher him in and by then Christopher is out and chatting. "So, have you had breakfast?" he asks our friend, who hasn't. We give him some of the leftover chicken fingers and fried shrimp from yesterday's food bank Easter meal; we volunteer each weekend and this time had been sent home with a tray-full, despite our protestations to not needing that much. I am not eating fried foods like that (unless the item is fried without coating in olive oil) and there are only a total of three people in our home. Until this morning. Or the other days that our friend, who lives behind one of the local food establishments, comes by. He takes it gratefully. "Well, sorry to not hang and talk," says Christopher, "but I have to jump in the shower; it's a busy day and we are getting ready for church." I sit and chat from the kitchen while our friend eats his meal; my eye is on the clock as I stir up dog viddles because they need to eat and visit nature before we go. The room is silent between our brief discussions about his birthday, whether he has a napkin with his meal, and whether we recycle plastic water bottles because he doesn't anymore since the two recycling places within walking distance of his camp have closed long ago. My consideration of the fact that it is Resurrection Day, Easter Sunday, is prominent in my mind. Not so much in my mouth. As the hour advances, I mention that I need to get the dogs fed and we must be on our way. To church. I tell him if he's up this way tomorrrow to check to see if we are here so he can call that rehab place again to see if they yet have openings. He's been calling every weekday for the last week plus and no luck yet. He thanks me, we wish each other a Happy Easter, and I shut the door."Should we have invited him to service?" I ask Christopher; we chat in furtive voices in the kitchen, even though there is no one within earshot but the eating dogs, who care not for our discussion. We go on about the fact that the last time we took him to church (not this one but a different one) it did not turn out too well. He was very inebriated and wanted to argue with Pastor. During the sermon. He had to be taken back to his camp before the service let out. He carries about him an odor of the street, of waning alcohol dependence, that is sickening. I can say that without reservation, having grown up at the mid-point between a dump and a clam factory. Truth, almost; my parents and I lived in front of the dump which put the clam factory about a mile to the east. I could well-stomach those odors in summer's brightness better than I could stomach the half-hour to 45-minute (on a good, light-traffic day) drive to service. We did not try to catch him to ask if he wanted to go with us, for this and a number of other excuses reasons.Our Pastor preached what turned out to be a fire and brimstone message of sorts. He reminded us that the disciples were not the ones who remembered the prophesies about Jesus; the Sadducees and Pharisees did. It was not the group of disciples, who had spent close and intimate moments in the presence of Jesus who stayed as he was being crucified; it was the women, who in turn were the first to see the Risen Savior while the disciples disbelieved their joyous testimony. He went on to remind us that the first evangelists were women, and asked if we women were evangelizing enough. Before we left, a woman blessed us; it was not the first time. As we drove home I determined to purchase her a card, which would serve as a very minor thanks but hopefully one that would in some way express our feelings of gratitude.And the day wore on; after seeing that the dogs were able to visit nature at our return, I went out to retrieve the card I wanted. As I left the store, I approached the intersection to make my left turn toward the highway and there on the corner was a man with a sign:

WHY LIE?

I NEED BEER

Next to the word "beer" was a small "4:20." I had my windows open since it was 87 degrees in the sun; "I'm sorry, my brother--If I had it I would donate," I say with a smile. He points to the "4:20" and asks, "Do you know what that is?" "A Bible verse?" I reply, my mind still on the sermon. "Um, no; it's not a Bible verse." He casts a glance about, but the quiet intersection cares little for our brief encounter. "It's the day of smokers," he says as he puts his thumb and forefinger, which are pinched together, to his lips. "Ah! Right! My one encounter with that was well before that term came into vogue." He points to his wristwatch. "Today is 4/20," he reminds me. "Well, for me, it's Easter Sunday." And the light changed as I pulled off. "God bless you!" I call as I turn.

A day of encounter; for people who want to live in safety, away from "the city" with its homeless and other issues I say: You are not living.

Even with our mis-steps, we are here to help each other. We are here to encourage one another. No matter our station in life, each of us is a step or two from our brother or sister's station in life. The next time you turn to get on the highway, that might be me standing there with a sign. I pray that such will not be my lot, but if so, I hope to have a variety of "4:20's" available:

Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen (1 John 4:20).

Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop--some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown (Mark 4:20).

At once they left their nets and followed [Jesus] (Matthew 4:20).

My son, pay attention to what I say; listen closely to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart;  for they are life to those who find them and health to a man's whole body.  Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you. Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm. Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil (Proverbs 4:20-27).

Hope your day has been joyous, and filled with excitement, wonder, love, and knowledge!

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