An Environment For Fruit

dead-fig-tree

To begin, since there will be “language” used in this post, I won’t start immediately because generally the first few words of my posts are visible to everyone on my Facebook account, those that haven’t blocked me anyway. To those abroad, I’m not sure how my words will translate…but hopefully you’ll get my point, and to everyone other English speaking reader that reads my blog regularly, I don’t think you’ll mind. True to what I learned last year during my year of clarity…here goes, no holes barred.

What this fuckstorm is, this present political environment, is indeed the apocalypse, the end times, the rolling out of the red carpet for the Antichrist. Before you get all hyped up and ready to condemn or think me certifiable, I’m not talking about Trump. Who I am talking about is Beelzebub, the fucking Devil, Satan, Lucifer, or whatever your moniker is for pure unadulterated evil and the only arsenal in said’s wheelhouse: the appropriation of truth and twisting it into something unrecognizable…given the whole the Father of Lies title, the distorter of Truth, yes, with a capital “T”. Scripture teaches us that Hell was irreparably broken when Jesus sacrificed his life and rose from the dead. We are saved. The evil one only has lies now, to somehow convince us that what really happened didn’t happen and to throw away the grace that was given to us. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

There is all this talk of alternative facts, fake news etc., that has amped up such a negative polarity in this country and the rest of the world, that we now have an environment that is toxic, perfect for negating bearing the good fruit necessary to build up the Kingdom of God. Because when neighbor turns against neighbor, based on the climate created by such negative politics, the ripple effect of such animus will destroy those important elements and connections necessary in a person’s life that would have been an essential part of them becoming the best person God created them to be, all because they’ve been deceived into believing and then rendering null and void certain important people placed specifically in their lives. Not to mention the staggering amount of cyber bullying and hate crimes that strip the light from individuals who will now never bear good fruit in this world. For me, I’ve been called I…let me see what I’ve been called, a libertard, sore loser, snowflake, baby killer, ignorant of the real truth, whiner, jealous (yeah, I don’t get that one), unpatriotic and so much more that is thought and yet unspoken. All of which I am NOT. Beyond the hurt feelings, I worry, because that is my nature, that what if my very calling, which I truly believe is to create environments necessary for people to thrive and become their best selves, is rendered null and void because of all this bullshit. More than ever I see that my commitment to clarity last year was the greatest gift that God could have given me. But it will mean nothing if I’m dismissed because of my politics.

Admittedly, I hold myself to equal chastising, except to say that since I am aware of my own leaps to judgement, I have worked with Herculean strength to overcome my gut responses and act as Jesus demands me to and not as I want to in my head (my rapier tongue has been silenced so often I am in a chronic state of exhaustion). I have never called anyone a name, I have pleaded to keep discussions rational, to verify facts and hold back on pigeon holing people into a specific category. I have sat with incredulity as I’ve had to withstand the increasing level of distortion and misrepresentation of situations, many of which I personally participated in, are actually on tape, easily verifiable and still squelched under the biggest pile of bullshit the world has ever been witness to. And let me be clear, I am NOT TALKING ABOUT PEOPLE WHO THINK DIFFERENTLY THAN I DO POLITICALLY. I am talking about the most basic expectation of civility and desire for the truth. I am talking about choosing fear over love, I’m talking about rationalizing one’s way into justifying hatred and buying the lies that would lead us down the path of hatred verses love. When you do that, you are actively involved in creating the exact environment that kills potential fruit. Good fruit cannot grow out of something evil as Jesus explains in Matthew 7:15-29.

Be aware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves. By their fruits you will know them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Just so, every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. So by their fruits you will know them. Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’ Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’ Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock. And everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like the fool who built his house on sand. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. And it collapsed and was completely ruined. When Jesus finished these words, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.

And what is the will of our Father in heaven? Let’s start with the line just before this admonition: Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the law and the prophets. If you don’t strive for that, you aren’t creating the environment necessary to bear good fruit, and you are, and I don’t say this lightly or hyperbolically, the arm of the Devil.

They Will Know That You Are Christains By Our Love

fear-notBeing ready to charge forth is how I always want to portray myself…but I am more a compilation of pacing, hyperventilation, tears, ending in quiet resolve.  I am aware of what I have to say, no less committed to continue on the path that I see so clearly, shaking but never wavering.  It just isn’t easy for me.  On that note, I am provoked by the faceless ugliness of social media and the fearful nature of information, convoluted to champion ideological superiority and then weaponizing it as a way to justify a belief and behavior that circumvents the gospel, and yes I did say circumvent…because Jesus could never, would never stand for it…the finger pointing and the blame, the violent solutions and polarization of the world and its people. In John 13:13, Jesus lays out the model of behavior he expects of his disciples:

You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master’ and rightly so for indeed I am.  If I, therefore, the master and the teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet.  I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.  Amen, amen I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him.  If you understand this, blessed are you because of it.

He goes on to say in John 13:34,

I give you a new commandment: love one another.  As I have loved you, so you should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

There will be those who will pick through scripture to find ways around this to justify their hatred of those who are the momentary evil of day…whether it is a political party, or those who terrorize in the name of their superiority.  We, as Christians, are not allowed that weakness.  That is what Jesus meant when he said:

You have heard that is was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you…

There are plenty of places to find what love looks like….which is where everyone should start.  More importantly, we have to look at what drives us away from love, which drives us to propagate gossip and innuendo as fast as wild-fire. It is fear.  It is fear.  It is fear.  It. Is. Fear.  How can that be?, we who wear the gift of grace?, we who are promised that anything we ask for in prayer, with faith will be given, we who are commanded not to worry because if God clothes the world in such splendor, how much more does he have in store for us, so little in our faith? We fear because we have been lulled into the illusion that evil has the greater edge, that it can defeat us, and the greatest illusion of all, that the gates of hell haven’t already been shattered by Jesus death and resurrection.  On the night he was betrayed he rebuked a disciple who burnished the sword:

Put your sword back into its sheath, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.  Do you not think that I cannot call upon my Father and he will not provide me at this moment with more than twelve legions of angels?  Then how would scripture be fulfilled which say this must come to pass in this way?

That is the question isn’t it?  How will our fate, laid out in scripure be fulfilled?  Could God swoop down and finish the job?  Or does he know that the sacrifice of his son has given us the necessary tools to be our own champions? 1John 4: lays it out plainly:

There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.  We love because He first loved us.

Love is what must be our core.  It doesn’t mean that it will be easy, but at any moment in time we can pray to God to augment our imperfect hearts with His perfect love, or we can give into fear in all its seeming righteousness, in its promise of vengeance, its illusion of creating peace and safety.  Violence will never be the answer; hatred exists as a bi-product of fear.  But that doesn’t mean I am naive, either.  I don’t condemn armies who fight for a cause…one of the conundrums of being human, I guess.  Perhaps that is what Jesus meant when he said that we should render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.  He also told us that we couldn’t serve two masters, and how narrow the road to righteousness really is. But certainly, the task at hand is to focus on how others will see us and know that we are his disciples…they will know us by how we love one another.

The Subtly of Grace

power of emotionThis picture represents a simple idea, we can change a single molecule by our thoughts and words.  For more info on the picture check this link: http://www.whatthebleep.com/water-crystals/ But his ideas led me to what I had to say about the growing darkness in this world on a past post:

I remember teaching  moral issues long ago, when I tried to impress upon the sophomore class the subtleties in making a moral decision.  Right and wrong, good and bad are never really black and white, rather exist in often the subtlest shades of grey.  I don’t think they could quite get their heads wrapped around the concept, perhaps it was that the examples I gave weren’t very good, like distinguishing between taking a pen from someone’s desk or locker without asking, or the last piece of pie when you’ve already had your share.  Most scoffed at how stupid I was being, and rationalized quite sensibly, that a pencil is only worth a couple of pennies, or the person would never miss it, or justify that the person excluded from the pie really didn’t need it after all and they were just doing them a favor.  What I was unable to convey, even after I thought I stated it pretty clearly, is that moral behavior, in large part, is built by developing an ability to distinguish between shades of grey….and the way to do that is one decision at a time, regardless of how simple or inane they might appear.  What can I say, I was young…and wanted them to understand that as adults, we are an accumulation of choices just like these.  If the first impulse is to justify in your mind why an action is morally ok to serve any “want” at the time then it is a clear indication that your gut is telling you that it may not be.  I learned throughout the years from very wise people, to simply take a moment to weigh my options…which in truth most often takes a few seconds.  Asking before borrowing something or choosing not to be greedy only increases our souls acuity to recognize shades of grey.   Our brains also help us continue on a moral path by creating neuro-pathways, or shortcuts to respond to situations like the ones mentioned automatically after we repeat a certain behavior after a while.   I guess that is why bad habits are so hard to break…just ask my family…it’s to the point that whenever I even open my mouth to speak their eyes roll back into their heads, and I guess I can’t blame them.  For now it is safer to opine in cyber space. 

I fear in this time, we may be losing the ability to distinguish between shades of grey and the world is growing darker.  I don’t know if it’s because there is so much corruption, rationalized behavior, and greed that we’ve accepted that the growing darkness is inevitable (or its someone else’s fault), or if it’s because  up against such darkness it is easier to look so much better in comparison.   We do live in morally dubious times, and I think the place to start cleaning up all the pollution begins with our own choices…not necessarily the ones involving pencils and pie, but the ones that trigger the rationalization response.  I know I’ve had a hard time taking my own inventory when there are so many who don’t, but it has to start somewhere.  And I know that I am in no position to throw stones, but do hold myself obligated to develop my own moral acumen…because too many of our leaders and movers and shakers in our world don’t…and why the saving of the world may very well be left in the hands of  us ordinary folk…one choice at a time. 

So it is with Grace.  Sometimes I think we believe that real power lies in those who stand in the light of infamy and fame, those names that we are familiar with, who are known by the masses.  I think that is the greatest illusion of all, perpetuated by darkness to seduce us from recognizing our own power.  How many are looking for a savior on a white horse, fearless and strong with endless power and ability to slay any adversary?  There is a reason God chooses great leaders from the simplest and most ordinary people…it is within every heart to do great things.  Each of us has the ability to use the subtly of Grace and change even water…even if we aren’t around to see their impact in the future.  Never underestimate a single gesture of Grace…the darkness never does and that is how it grows as well.  The good news is that even the subtlest of light can cast away the darkness.  Be a light.  Change the world

Dancing with the Devil

dancing with the devilI hesitated for a long time before I expressed my rage against this corporate machine, but now that my dance with this particular devil is done…let me tell you about it.  For the past few years, my family has made a special effort to live more simply, pay off debt and choose a life that isn’t inspired by all the physical trappings of modern society.  I’m not saying we live like monks, but we, like a lot of others working in health-care fields have suffered in this economy.  We want to live responsibly and not live in the mentality of blaming the world for the challenges that we may face on any given day.  Some days are better than others.  Today, having gotten out from under the single most Faustian company in the world, Bank of America, I feel free.  The holes in my stomach can heal, the frustration of feeling victimized by a company that is rife with story after story of malfeasance is over.

In all my discussions about power, I thought it was high time I took an opportunity to act powerfully in what, to me anyway, was a situation in which I had none.  Choosing to act powerfully doesn’t always mean having the upper hand.  In this instance it meant seeing a situation clearly, and also affirming the belief that I am a good and honest person who was in need of help solving a problem.  That was my platform.   While I think I’m a pretty good negotiator, I had a very positive and yet completely unfruitful conversation with a representative who was rendered speechless in the end even though the machine he worked for may have won, it was I, not he, who felt powerful at the end of our conversation.  I was completely forthright, made no excuses, wanted to resolve a problem efficiently and then proceeded to state the truth to him that not only were they unwilling to negotiate anything, I was penalized for being truthful and responsible.  Not to go into detail, any time I was put on hold so he could “check with his manager,” he came back with an even more dismal situation.   I asked him how he could stand working for this company, (not at all in a mean way, but more because I was curious) given how stressful this was…he answered me, in a tired voice, that it was his job.  I said, that I pride myself on working with people to solve problems and are usually successful in creating solutions where both sides can benefit.  I repeated back much of what the company touted in their new campaign, that they wanted to help stay connected and help people in their ordinary lives.  Being as ordinary as they come, it appeared to me that the company not only didn’t want to keep me connected they were doing their very best to make life as difficult as possible.  He had nothing to say to that.  Ironically, I felt good after the phone-call because I had done everything I could do on my end.  I ended with phrase:  “You have to know that this will catch up to your company, that the rule of the universe is that whatever you put out there comes back to you.  It certainly has for the rest of us.  But when you have an opportunity to help, and your company literally pays bonuses for pushing people to default, you have to know that eventually you and your company will have pay the price…even if all you do is answer the phone and relay your manager’s message…”  We ended the conversation politely.  I did pray for him that night, more because he didn’t seem to thrilled about working for them.  I know I sounded a bit judgmental but at that moment, it seemed so true.  Also,  he had to go back.  I don’t, and I guess that is why I win.

I learned something too.  All the years our business had a relationship with this company, like millions of others, I never thought about what a monster we helped make.  I get that it was done  completely unwittingly, but we still did our part, and I feel most definitely we paid the consequences.  Isn’t this how a lot of monsters get created?  Not by one thing, but by diffusing it among the masses until they become the catch phrase…”Too big to fail”  Perhaps this is why Jesus talks so much about the difficulty of a rich man getting into the Kingdom of God.  Today, I cut my ties with this particular devil and will for the first time in a long time sleep well.

Power, Part III

?????????????????????????????????????????????When it comes to understanding power, the last temptation that Jesus faced in the desert (at least in Luke), is the greatest show of strength and power by doing absolutely nothing at all.  It was a challenge from the devil to Jesus, to prove that he truly was the Son of God by jumping off the highest parapet of the temple.  If he truly was God’s son, God, “would command his angels concerning you, to guard you lest you dash your foot against a stone.”  To which, Jesus, unimpressed that the Devil can quote scripture, responds: “It also says you should not put the Lord, your God, to the test.”  Booyah!  Oh yeah! Take that sucka (gestures included)…That, of course, is what I would have said as the Devil skulked away, because Jesus is that hefty of an adversary even after starving in the desert for 40 days!  Most of all, though, it tells me real power is not defined by or proven by show and tell.  Think about it, I don’t know anyone who even has a tiny bit of that kind of power and doesn’t use it…including the Son of God because he chose not to.  The conundrum for me is this: Since no one else was there, how do we know that the devil wasn’t just a figment of delirium resulting from starvation, and none of these tests ever happened…should it even matter?  Even if the story is pure conjecture, it did affect how Jesus understood and utilized God’s power throughout his ministry.  Obviously, history tells us of his great miracles and his great authority and ability to command a crowd.  Most important to me, however, was that he remained true to all three lessons.  He is the most powerful figure in human history because he satiated our spiritual hunger first, showed us by example and parable that true power has nothing to do with amassing temporal kingdoms and controlling others, and most importantly, that trust in God is the true cornerstone, even if it means being subjected to torture and death.

I think about the temptations in the desert a lot, and I worry that as a Church, we are failing the three tests.   I am worried that amassing worldly wealth far outweighs the need for spiritual fulfillment.  I am worried that controlling the faithful by determining who is fit for everlasting life is more important than empowering people to be just who God created them to be…which is to be a part of the body of Christ, where every part is just as important as the next and not just the ones that hold a higher place.  I am worried that we constantly put God to the test by demanding that he answer every prayer the way we want him to…and use the result as proof that he really does love us, or is punishing us for something.  As a result of our failure, I’m worried that while the devil may have not been successful in tempting Jesus, he has been successful in tempting the Church…the whole Christian Church.

Power Part ll

satan_before_the_lordWho really has authority and power in this world?  While fasting in the desert,  the Devil told Jesus that the authority of this world was his and he could give it to anyone he wished.  All Jesus had to do was subjugate himself and worship Satan.  To this Jesus (at least in Matthew) grows angry and demands he leaves and reminds him that it only the Lord God that we are to worship and he alone shall we serve.  Curiously, I’ve often wondered if Satan really believed he controlled this world, or that it was just a trick, a slight of hand to obstruct Jesus true power.  When I look at dictators throughout history who appeared to have control of their respective kingdoms along with the allegiance and worship of their people, their power was always rooted in fear, was transient, and their people always fickle.  Selling one’s soul to the Devil for the illusion of power will never really make one powerful.  Control over someone isn’t necessarily power over them.  No one can take our power without our permission.  The Devil can’t give away what never belonged to him in the first place: our free will.  Shackles may contain us physically, but the spirit never.  Jesus knew this, which is why he knew he could command the Devil to leave.

When I look back over my life, the thought of having some form of a kingdom never appealed to me.  I don’t really want that.  But there were plenty of times that I felt controlled by someone or some circumstance. In hindsight, I realized that I simply allowed myself to believe the illusion that I was powerless.  I later understood that at any time, I could have simply said no and relied on what Jesus said…we get our power from God and serve him alone.  But hindsight is 20/20.  So, while I can’t change the past, I can change the future.  I need not convince anyone that the power they think they have over me is an illusion.  I’m the only one who needs to know and believe that they don’t.  That is the way to break the bond of power.  When that person realizes they can’t control your spirit after all, like the Devil did, they leave…perhaps not without some damage, but that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger right?

People who desire to rule over others, generally choose those who feel powerless to begin with.  Feeling powerless opens the door to being seduced by someone who will promise you anything, all for the exchange of your soul.  A hefty price to pay for an illusion.  When you build a source of inner strength, you stop attracting those kinds of people and situations.  You attract those who will empower you and be empowered by you.

The Shoes of Boston

saints of boston 2Literally moments after I published “Step by Step”, I became aware of the tragedy in Boston.  While I am still walking in my shoes here in Wisconsin, I immediately asked myself what new steps I could take to appease the horror of what happened.  So I want to point out the many shoes of the Saints of Boston, who used their shoes to bring help, comfort, hope, healing and many more unbelievable qualities to those affected by the bomb at the marathon.  The response of what happened after the tragedy is proof positive that good does outweigh evil.  The evil actions of one can not quell the goodness of the many, that is the most important memory I want to take away from this tragedy.  Hopefully it will be what the rest of the world sees as well…that we are not the axis of evil that our enemies portray us to be, but strong, brave and compassionate human beings.  America is defined by those people who ran to the victims and offered their help.  Our pride is reflected in the eyes of those people who stood together singing our National Anthem at the Bruins game.  That is the America that I want to stand up and get noticed…not a blood lust for revenge.

While it is understandable to feel rage after being bombarded over and over again with news of violence, like those Saints in Boston we have to hold on to that same source of goodness that drove them so we don’t let vengeance rule the day.  In all truthfulness, I am disgusted by some of the idiotic commentary on social media escalating the blood lust for retribution or even linking our president or the government to the growing tide of violence that has swept our country.  I am tired of anger, paranoia and panic being the exemplifying qualities that define America.  We are better and stronger than that.  When we let the few who have committed heinous acts intensify our distrust of one another, then we accept defeat.  I would venture to say most Americans are like those Saints in Boston and it is the voice of those reasonable people who must guide us forward…not those that feed our fear of the government and each other.  Grieving belongs to us, vengeance belongs to God.

I pray for peace and justice, for reasonable and level heads to move us forward.  As always, first and foremost, I pray that we champion love.