Saturday, December 20, 2008

Eixt 148 GSP Bloomfield Jesus

The residents of Bloomfield give Staten Island a run for their money having the most Guidos per square mile. But alias, the town’s not all gold chains and wife-beater Tees.

After all, William Batchelder Bradbury is buried here. Who you ask? Well, every Sunday School student knows his biggest hit, Jesus Loves Me and folks still walk down the isle over at Brookdale Baptist Church to his other song, Just as I Am.

I wonder what William would think of the state of home Christmas decorations in town nowadays. On the positive side, just driving one mile in town I counted 15 front lawn Nativity scenes. But gone are the plastic-GE-lit manger scenes, replaced by inflatable, blow-up types. At first, I thought I spotted a wayward Macy’s Thanksgiving Day balloon that crash-landed at East Passaic Ave. But the more I drove, the more I spotted.

While I’m not into inflatable Wisemen, Mary or Joseph, at least thieves can’t just pick up baby Jesus and run. It’s all or nothing, and it’s pretty hard to go unnoticed stealing a 15 ft. blow-up manger.

But the inflatables do have one major flaw. They deflate with major temperature changes and strong gusts of wind and just wither away; not very sustaining.

Luke 8:6 Some fell on rock, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Exit 11 GSP Sayreville Missing Jesuses

By Mary Jo Patterson
Religion News Service

Sayreville, N.J. - Detectives investigating the theft of a baby Jesus statue
from an outdoor Nativity scene at a Sayreville church followed a trail on Monday (Jan. 2, 2008) that led them to the missing statue -- and 26 other baby Jesus figurines.

Police said they assumed all 27 statues had been stolen, although they did
not know from where.

Police spread the figurines out on a counter at police headquarters to take
inventory. All lay, in swaddling clothes, on their backs.

"It looks like a nursery here," said police spokesman Ken Kelly.

The figurines, most of them plastic, were found stashed "in plain view" in a
car parked outside the home of Christopher Olson, 18, of Old Bridge,
N.J.,police said.

The discovery brought relief to the parishioners of St. Stanislaus Church,
who had taken the theft of their statue very hard, according to the Rev. Ken
Murphy, their pastor.

The theft, as well as the theft of a smaller baby Jesus from the church's
school and the toppling of a 15-foot crucifix in the church's cemetery, took
place late last week (Dec. 30 or 31).

By late Monday, word of the baby Jesus stash had begun to circulate in Old

Lou Saverese, a resident of the street where the car was found, said a
mystery had been solved. About three weeks before Christmas, he said, the
baby Jesus in his Nativity scene disappeared.

"My wife thought the wind might have taken it away, but then we noticed
other people on the block were also missing their baby Jesus," he said.
Then, in a park down the road, he saw two more plastic Jesus figures hanging
from a telephone pole. Police cut them down.

Rev. Murphy said it best: "As I told people ..., the most important thing is, we celebrated the birthof Jesus," he said. "Jesus is in many different places. If they saw the display and saw he wasn't there, they would be reminded that he is in them."
John 15:4" Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Exit 35 Rte 287 Morristown Jesus

Morristown’s Green has the biggest, brightest, tackiest and most wonderful Christmas decorations of any public square in the state. And while St. Nick (yes, he is referred to this way in Morristown) was being hoisted down Fire Engine #3’s ladder to the sounds of Bruce Springstein’s (of course) Santa Claus is Coming to Town, something else was discretely going on the Green over on South Street.

A group from Morristown’s own Liquid Church, fresh from spending the early part of the day handing out coats to the homeless in New Brunswick, was busy cooking up grub in the name of Jesus for the residents of The Eric Johnson House, Morris County’s transitional house for people living with AIDS.
Dance instructor, 2nd grade teacher, landscaper, photographer, safety guy, accountant and student were cooking up gorgonzola & walnut-stuffed stuffed chicken, home-made spinach gnocchi and corn bread. Though Crystal has been making the corn bread for the past few months, I still needed to maintain a close eye on her in the kitchen, after all, as the cornbread goes, so does the meal. I think Savannah’s Paula Deen would strongly agree.

Now we’re not the most overtly Christian bunch (as perhaps you may surmise from the hammer and knife photo) but the residents all know we’re from Liquid, the church with the funky name and oddly conservative theology. Though we seek to be a little light to the residents, sometimes God’s intended audience is not the same as ours.
As we began eating, the house nurse turned to me and told me quite a little amazing story. She belongs to the county’s Interfaith group and because the residents of The Eric Johnson House spoke so much of our volunteers and food, that the group thought they’d pop in the Hyatt one Sunday and check us out. Now as she’s telling me this, I’m thinking, "Oh no, Interfaith….there-is-no-right/there-is-no-wrong left-wingers, they must have hated worship." On the contrary, she said the group was very impressed with the church and couldn’t believe that so many young people attend. What she said next, blew me away.

"Our staff brought their kids out to Liquid and those kids have been coming back every Sunday. Our parents really still find it hard to believe their kids have any interest in Christianity at all."

Matthew 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
***photo by elbaliz mendez, daily record

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Exit 63 Route 80 Lodi Jesus

Lodi is named for the Bridge of Lodi in Italy where Napoleon once gained fame shouting "Vive la République!" In New Jersey though this Lodi is home to the Dangling Jesus, the Jesus that dangles from the neck of one Jan-Michael. Wherever Jan-Michael goes so goes Jesus. Whether it’s work, church or Club Rise, if Jan-Michael is there, so is the ever-present Jesus around his neck.

I’m partial to his Jesus over the skull T-shirt look myself. After all, Jesus conquered death at the place called, "The Skull." I realize most Protestants do not have the image of Jesus on their crosses but I think we all got one big wake-up call to Christ’s physical sufferings when The Passion hit the big screen.

Now Jan-Michael is one of the few people I know with the ability to speak truth in love and I do believe it does have something to do with that ever-present Jesus around his neck.

While at Club Rise, I was telling him the story of when I was at Jersey Boys Bagels in Morristown and a very uppity-White-blonde-professional woman strutted in with child in tow (like a brief case or Coach bag). She barked her bagel order (which was very specific: everything bagel, cut in even quarters, dab of low-fat chive cream cheese, only a dab…and on it went with five other types of bagels and spreads). Then she made the high school bagel boy repeat her entire order back to her- "Now repeat what I said in my exact words, and I mean exact." High school bagel boy obliged, I could tell he’s been through the routine before. When she was satisfied with his response, she place her credit card in her child’s hand and said, "Here, make sure the order is correct before you pay him," then she walked out back to her illegally parked Lexus. When the order was complete (and inspected), the child handed over the credit card. Bagel Boy swiped it twice; twice it was declined. A smirk washed over my face as the child stood there with the bagel order and declined card. I was almost, and I mean almost tempted to pay for the order but I was way too gleeful that her card was declined. I’m sure her annual income was 5x that of my own. Minutes later, mommy dearest returned in the I’ve-been-waiting-too-long rage. She huffed and puffed, made quite a scene and pulled out another card.

As I was telling this story to Jan-Michael with that Jesus around his neck, I began to feel like a real jerk. The joy of telling the story of rich woman’s embarrassment in a bagel shop quickly left me. Dang that dangling Jesus! Dang that Jan-Michael who could nail me with conviction. I should have shown a little Christian compassion and paid for those bagels before the mother returned. Stupid me.

Colossians 3:12Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Exit 114 GSP Middletown Jesus

The Green Lady is New Jersey’s most recognizable statue.
The rest of the world knows her as, "The Statue of Liberty," but to the locals, she is The Green Lady. She may stand in New York harbor but those feet are firmly planted in New Jersey. Though NYC loves to take credit for her, truth be told, her mailing address is literally:

The Statue of Liberty
2 Communipaw Way
Jersey City NJ, yes that’s New Jersey in that address.

And whenever NYC has a blackout, the lady’s torch still shines, lit by NJPSE&G.
But there’s another famous statue here in the Garden State: The Dancing Jesus of Middletown. Now the Dancing Jesus may seem silly, but with the history of Whippowill Road leading to the cemetery housing the statue, a dancing Jesus is a friendly sight indeed. In the 1800’s 15 women were burned at the stake for being witches and buried just outside the cemetery. The locals still claim the road to be haunted with trees that appear to have human forms trying to escape from them.

The deal with the Dancing Jesus is this - if you stare at the Jesus in the daylight, the arms appear to undulate. At night, if flash your high beams on and off and the statue also appears to do a little dance for you. The guys at Weird NJ tagged it with the best line ever: "Savior Last Dance for Me."

Jeremiah 31:13Then maidens will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Exit 4B GSP Wildwood Jesus

Wildwood, NJ. This once tacky town of 1950’s style budget hotels is now considered a hot destination and those Hawaiian themed budget rest stops now stand homage to doo-wop retro-chic. The 39 block boardwalk boasts more rides than Disney Land. And of all things, Rock ‘n Roll was birthed right here when Bill Haley and His Comets belted out "Rock Around the Clock" for the very first time in 1954 at he HofBrau Hotel.

Being a shore town, there are lots, and lots of T-shirt shops all promoting the best of all things Jersey:

Undaunted by the new debauchery of Rock music, the local Presbyterians opened The Boardwalk Chapel, known as "Salvation by the Sea." The church's hand-drawn logo depicts the Christian cross rising out of an Atlantic Ocean wave.

Currently wedged between a pizzeria and a tattoo parlor, this place holds worship services 77 consecutive days each summer. I’m not quite sure what kind of impact the place has for Christ in the community but it has made an impact on those T-shirt shops. Just look what you can buy now:

Mark 4 : Jesus began to teach ... while all the people were along the shore at the water's edge.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Exit 163 GSP Paramus Jesus

Paramus is NJ’s premier retail mecca. Despite having some of the most restrictive blue laws – no retail on Sundays - the Paramus Park Mall, Garden State Plaza Mall, Bergen Mall, Fashion Center Mall and The Mall at IV are all located in this town. Annual retail sales in this zip code surpass any other in the entire United States.

And between all buying and selling, a Paramus eighth-grader was sent home from school this Halloween because of his costume. Was he Slasher Freddie Kruger? No. Jason Vorhees from Friday the 13th? No. Blood sucking Vampire? No. Sarah Palin? No.

He was, well, Jesus.

The school Superintendent explained the student got the boot not because of any offensive religious nature, but that the costume may have become a disturbance in class.
"If students in any form are wearing things that are bringing too much added attention that disrupts us from an educational environment, then school administrators would make that decision (to send a student home)" so said his official statement.

The honor student, who is currently studying both Christianity and Judaism, thought his costume relevant to his studies.

The comments expressed by the locals say it best:

-I am sure that I am on the same page as the school administration, the logic is this: On a day that is celebrated to ward off evil spirits, dressing as MASS MUDERING PSYCHOPATHS the likes of "Jason" "Freddy Kruger" and "Michael Myers" = good and unoffensive; dressing as someone who was MUREDERED BY THE MASSES, because of ignorance and intolerance = Bad and offensive....hmmmm

-As much as I as a Christian find it somewhat offensive to reduce Christ to a costume, why allow one type of costume and not another? At Halloween there are loads of Devil costumes around as well as witches.
-I guess being culturally sensitive stops at Christianity.
Religion aside, Jesus is an historical figure. Why can't a student dress up as him? Would Gandhi have been outlawed as well? People in this country have taken being "politically correct" way too far! Also---why must every religion be respected, EXCEPT for Christianity?
-He looked absolutely "heavenly" I really liked it.
-You can dress like the Devil but you get sent home for looking like Jesus????

And my personal favorite comment:

-Disrupting classes??? come on.. unless he was actually performing miracles...

1 Samuel 16 But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Exit 100 GSP Ocean Grove Jesus

Ocean Grove, once nicknamed, Ocean Grave for the strict adherence to NJ’s longest running blue laws (no driving, no retail, no beach on Sunday), is now known more for the one who indeed rose from the grave.

This place is as close to the Bible Belt as you can get above the Mason-Dixon line. Founded in 1869 as a Methodist Camp Meeting, in 2008 it is still owned and operated as a Methodist Camp Meeting. For the record, there are 114 tents still standing.
The founding fathers gathered here on a simple premise: to build a tabernacle and fresh water well on the Jersey Shore. Bersheeba’s well still stands to this day and the tabernacle is still used to worship Jesus as the entire town is registered as a historic landmark. And those 114 tents – well, there’s a 10-year rental waiting list. Who knew worshiping Jesus at the Jersey Shore would be such a big draw?

In sharp contrast to neighboring Asbury Park, what washes up most on this piece of shoreline most often is the Cross.

Matthew 16: If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Exit 151 GSP Montclair Jesus

Montclair NJ, a wonderful place to live and dine where every other home has a lawn placard for Obama-Biden.  In this ultra liberal tree-lined town, one wouldn’t expect Jesus to be a big seller on….Halloween.  Guess again. 

 A stop in the local Pharmacy on Grove Street one could find Jesus hair and beard in Grey, White and Blonde.   Take your pick.  This town does pride itself on diversity. I couldn’t figure out though why the description as a Jesus beard was only written in Spanish.  Talk about target marketing. 

Just when I was pleasantly surprise to find an incarnation of Jesus here (more so than in some of the local churches), a few counters away were some disturbing little Halloween statues.  Is that a little goblin trying to constrain the cross in a glass dome?   What are those skulls and why are they near a glass domed cross?  (Footnote:  it didn’t snow when I shook the globe).   I asked the sales clerk but he just shrugged his shoulders and said, “It’s Halloween, ya know.”  

Mark 15:22
They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull).

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Exit 5B Rt 280 North Caldwell Jesus

Something is lacking from the Rutgers University Football this year. The NJ Devils are also missing something. I just I just didn’t know it had anything to do with Jesus, but hey, there’s a reason the Weird NJ book is a national bestseller. Here in North Caldwell, the Devon Trading Company has it all figured out for a mere $21.95.

At first glance, these statues appear totally ridiculous. Then while I was looking at the baseball Jesus it hit me, and hit me hard. I could have really used this vision of Jesus as a kid. I couldn’t hit a baseball for squat. I wouldn’t even envision Jesus by my side to help with a hit, or pray tell a homerun. I could have used his comfort while the psuedo-jocks mocked this 4-eyed kid going down swinging with another called strike.

The company’s spokesperson says, "They're a great contemporary gift for kids, and it kind of keeps them in touch with their faith and what they're doing today… This kind of reminds them of what they're doing on a daily basis." She may have a point but as one professor at Stanford University notes, "It raises the whole question about what religion is for in a culture…This, in my view, is something like just the endorsement of our sports life. In one sense, it's harmless. In another sense, you'd think Christianity would raise questions about our daily activities."

Job 33:11"…he keeps close watch on all my paths."

as originally reported by Henry K Lee, SFChronical

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Exit 9 NJTurnpike - South River Jesus

Since 1683, this town has been named South River Landing, Willettstown, Washington, Washington Village, Washington Woods, Little Washington and finally in 1897 everyone agreed on South River. All the name changes will make your head spin and probably accounts for the name not appearing on the Exit 9 sign.

Also head spinning is the dual portrait of Jesus here. At one end of the spectrum is the Jesus at the center of St. Mary of Ostrabrama Roman Catholic Church. Surrounded by majestic angels, he holds up the written word evoking the words of John 1:1.

In sharp contrast, South River also gives rise (or perhaps fall) to Jesus Bomb, the punk band. Vocalist Danny credits Pope John Paul as a musical influence and states: "god is dead, lies in truth are in my head..." His goal is to play CBGB. Truth is CBGB is closed and worshipers still gather at St. Mary of Osbrabrama Roman Catholic Church.

John 1
The Word Became Flesh:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

St. Mary’s interior photo courtesy of Oleg Shpak from

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Exit: Alexander Rd, Rt 1 - Princeton Jesus

In 1933, Albert Einstein relocated to Princeton. Einstein described Princeton as "a quaint and ceremonious village of puny demigods on stilts." The town is still quaint and the locals here are the most educated bunch in the state.

Forget the US mint with the, "In God We Trust" motto. The University’s vault contains a Byzantine coin from 1000 AD which reads both in Latin and Greek, "IHESUS CHRISTI BASILEUS BASILEI" or "Jesus Christ, King of Kings." Imagine that.

And the Princeton elite do think about Jesus, quite often as it turns out. In just a few weeks Princeton will host the "Jesus Seminar On the Road." Lectures are all about Jesus...
Jesus: From Nazareth to Nicea
Jesus: In the First Century
Jesus: For the Twenty-first Century.

Matthew 14: "And when the men of that place recognized Jesus, they sent word to all the surrounding country…"

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Slip 5 New York Waterway - New York City Jesus

Yes, New York City is not part of New Jersey, though West New York and Ellis Island are. Jersey is considered New York’s 6th borough so I’ll stretch the point and include the Broadway Blessing here.

Every Fall, Broadway pauses and asks the almighty for blessings on the coming season. Held at the world’s largest (and yet to be completed) gothic cathedral, St. John the Divine, this world’s largest gothic cathedral was missing one thing: an operating restroom. Those B’way performers really know how to hold a note along with their bowels.

The prelude began with the mighty church organ belting out, "Everything’s Coming Up Roses" from "Gypsy" followed by, "There’s No Business Like Show Business" from "Annie Get Your Gun". I wanted to head for the restroom to barf but there was no restroom in the world’s largest gothic cathedral.

One would have thought the prelude would have included, "Phantom of the Opera," since it was going this route…and I could have sworn one of the angels on the pillars began to plead, "Please stop this now." -photo-

A dance troupe performed to, "How Great Thou Art." I was beginning to feel God’s presence through Jesus. I turned around and there in the center of the largest stained glass window in America was

Adam Jacobs sang, "Nothing there to Love" from the upcoming, "Amazing Grace: The True Story" and I began to notice feel more of Jesus’ influence both in song and statue.

Jerry Curry ended the Broadway Blessing with, "I’ll Walk with God," from "The Student Prince" and the event was engulfed with the almighty.

Ezekiel 34:  "I will bless them...I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing."