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 R├ępublique!" 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.