Monday, July 21, 2008

Exit 155P GS Parkway - Paterson Jesus

The leaders of Paterson originally hired Pierre L'Enfant to design the city. City officials rejected his plans so L’Enfant took those blueprints to Washington, DC. The rest is history.

Entering Paterson on Grand St, you are greeted by Jesus. "Vengan a mi los que van cansados, pesadas cargas, y yo los aliviare," the billboard reads. It is reassuring that Jesus is here in Paterson, along with the gangs. The Ruler of all Nature is here amidst the rulers of the streets.

Drive a bit further into the city and you will find the intersection of "Straight & Narrow," literally. At this intersection is Jesus, in infant form. This small inner city intersection may not appear to have any significance to the outsider but this is where you will find, "Straight & Narrow, Inc." S&N, founded in 1954, is the oldest community-based organization of its kind in the United States.

This place serves 6,000 people per year providing assistance for substance abusers, people with HIV/AIDS, those requiring intervention for driving while intoxicated, and children in need of day care. Baby Jesus is watching over all 6,000.

Matthew 7: "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Exit 88 GS Parkway - Lakehurst Jesus

Lakehurst is best known for the Hindenburg disaster in 1937. The tragedy effectively ended the age of the zeppelin. Ironically, the Hindenburg actually exploded, not over Lakehurst, but in nearby Manchester.

It is in here in Lakehurst where I found Jesus: Jesus of the Pine Barrens.

Warning. If you live in North or Central Jersey or any place else on the planet, the following photos may shock you. [These pictures were taken of the sanctuary in a small church attended by senior citizens.]
The Jesus Hand

The Lost Souls Hands

Dang. It’s a 30 foot 3-D mural depicting the hand of Jesus reaching out for the lost in the stormy sea. I am having a 1967 Chiller Theatre flashback. That television show opened with a creepy claymation hand coming up out of dirt. I suppose the Jesus hand is intended to be a comforting life preserver for all humanity. It looks like creepy claymation to me.

But that small congregation of seniors sure loves Jesus. When the pastor asked for anyone involved in the children’s Vacation Bible School program to stand, everyone, I mean the entire congregation, stood. While there’s not a single person under 75 years of age at this church and definitely no children, these folk have their priorities in order, ready to tell the young ones of the hidden things.

Luke 10: At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Exit 7 Route 21 - Belleville Jesus

Belleville is best known for its favorite son, Frankie Valli along with with The 4 Seasons. Recent notoriety came to the town as the TV home of Furio Giunta, Junior Soprano and Vito Spatafore of The Sopranos fame.

It is also home base for RetroFitness, the gym. The facility is set up perfectly for people like me. I’m not looking to converse with others and definitely do not want to spot with a lifter. All the Lifestyle equipment is labeled, "No instruction required." The free-weight section offers so many safety features and guards; it’s a lift-it-yourself no-brainer.

Here, the iPod is king. This is iPod Nation; this is iPodGym.

That little device Newsweek called, "life changing cultural icon." Audible CEO Don Katz proclaimed, "It is the limousine for the spoken word." [Sounds like John 1:1- without the limo]. Not to disrespect the beloved iPod, but I noticed another cultural icon at the gym. This one has nothing to do with technology. It is Jesus, Jesus on the forearm. There in plain sight:

Protestant Jesus

Catholic Jesus

Orthodox Jesus

Techno Jesus.

The Jesus tattoo, the ichthus body-bumper sticker for the new millennium. In the 5th & early 6th centuries it was common for Christians to spurn tattoos depicting the cross or name of Christ. Everything old is new again.

While referencing his physical beatings, St. Paul, using tattoo imagery, stated, "Henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear on my body the brand marks of Jesus." Galatians 6.

During St. Paul’s life
, Roman slave owners tattooed their chattel with brand marks to display ownership.

To whom do you belong?

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Exit 154 GS Parkway - Clifton Jesus

Originally named Acquackanonk, the local residents couldn’t repeat the name three times quickly, so it was changed to Clifton. It is home to David Chase, the creator of The Sopranos. It is home to the Dollar Tree Store, lots of Dollar Tree Stores. There’s a sign on the Route 46 East store (not to be confused with the Route 46 West store). The sign reads, "Food Stamps Accepted at this Location." Wow. Forget the McDonald’s dollar menu. Food stamps go a long way when every item is .99 cents. My original intent was to write a piece regarding the plastic Jesus nightlight I found in isle #11, but that "Food Stamps Accepted at this Location" sign haunted me.

Who are these people who stretch their monthly food allocation at the Dollar Store? I searched the crudely constructed metal racks for clues. Jesus was right there in isle #11, shrink-wrapped and ready for an outlet. I also took note of an entire isle devoted to, well, Jesus.

I counted fifty-four Bibles, an assortment books of the Bible on CD, refrigerator AND car magnets which read, "Fear Not,"(picture of the cross included), "Live by Faith" and the Fish symbol. I never found Jesus at the Neiman Marcus in Short Hills but he is all over the Dollar Tree Store in Clifton. I think the poor may be on to something big.

That Dollar Tree Store Bible mentions hell exactly three times. The same DTSB refers directly to the poor well over thirty-five. Huh.

Saint Paul said it best, "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty you might become rich." II Corinthians 8

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Exit 15E NJ Turnpike - Newark Jesus

Contrary to popular belief, the city’s namesake is not a reference to the Biblical account of the ark of Genesis 6. Puritans evicted from Connecticut sought to name their "New Work" in New Jersey. They settled on the shortened, "Newark" for their newly created theocracy.

I spent last weekend visiting family in the Constitution State. My friend Todd graciously drove to Penn Station, Newark to provide me with a ride home. With just one wrong turn we wound up off Ferry Street under the festively colored lights of the Brasilia Grill.

The billboard overhead read, "Stop the Killings in Newark Now!" But nothing in Newark could stop two hungry Jersey guys the satisfaction of experiencing the never-ending meat marathon known as rodizio. Gastronomical visions of bacon-wrapped tenderloin on a stick far outweighed any sense of perceived danger.

Seated and impatiently waiting for the first round of beef, I sensed someone looking over my shoulder. There he was. Jesus.

"Hey, you down there, give thanks before you eat."

"O.K., O.K., thanks for the not-so-subtle reminder, Lord."

"Eat all those little skewed chicken hearts," he replied.

"No, no. I don’t like eating hearts, chicken or otherwise," I fretted.

Soon afterwards, a nice Portuguese man in culturally themed clothing plopped a skewer of grilled hearts on my plate. Oh crap.

Reality check: Jesus didn’t actually speak to me through the wall mural at the Brasilia Grill. However, he did speak these words and the King James Version says it best:

"Labor not for the meat which perisheth, but for the meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed." John Chapter 6.