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.

Pretty Little Liars

the open bibleI often wonder if people actually read the same scripture that I do.  SERIOUSLY, I really wonder that.  I am conflicted and challenged every day by my weakness when I read the words of Jesus. I remember the day when my heart broke in a vision of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane extending his hand to me and saying it is for you that I will make this sacrifice and felt first, the horrible guilt and then an overwhelming love fill me up.  It is because of that moment that I resist the impulse to lower myself to the level of those pretty little liars out there who would have you believe that 1.6 billion people are extensions of the devil, are diametrically opposed to the teachings of Christ, and that America is synonymous with the chosen people.  I don’t want to be lectured by smug individuals who turn the challenge on its head and point to the atrocities that are befalling innocent people right now, and how we must destroy them.  History has told us many a woeful tale of this same story.  Christians destroyed by Rome, Jews destroyed by Christians (and yes, we had our crazy factions too), women being burned as witches, etc. the list goes on.  And as the saying by Edmund Burke goes: “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it”

So, to those of you who are so confident that you know the mind of God and believe anyone who disagrees with you be damned…see how successfully you live and breathe these words:

“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. But woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry.  Woe to you who laugh now, for you will grieve and weep.  Wo to you when all speak well of you for their ancestors treated the false prophets in this way.  But I say to you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.  To the person who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other as well, and from the person who takes your cloak, do not withhold even your tunic.  Give to everyone who asks of you, and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back.  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you.  Even sinners love those who love them”  Luke 6:24-32

I am angry because these words convict me every day to be a greater person and have faith that Jesus knew what he was talking about, and yet I don’t see a lot of support for this notion right now.  As hard as it is to look at the atrocities that are being perpetuated every day and have faith that the above formula is the greater course, it does revolve back to that great sacrifice of Jesus.  Jesus had faith in me, so I must have faith in him…it is really as simple as that.  When I face the banal every day workings of life, where I get to practice and master on an inane level the challenges listed above, I know that then and only then will my discipleship be honed and perfected.  And deep in the simplicity of everyday life, my greatest fear is coming to pass…that those pretty little liars out there are corrupting the gospel, perverting it and twisting it to serve another master, one who Jesus warns us of…the one who can entice us, utilize our fears to their advantage and sway us away from the kind of love God first gave us.  It is a master who would have us build a cocoon of our own self-righteousness, and prejudice, who will ply us with a twisted appreciation of what exactly grace will do which is to deny those we are commanded to love and give entry to only those who are deemed worthy, and condemn any who would disagree.

The central point of the gospel is that the invitation is extended to us all….including those 1.6 billion people out there who only see hateful rejection, persecution and judgement. The parable Jesus told of the great banquet in Luke 14:15-24 reminds us that those who find excuses not to come to his table will be shut out. Many have accepted the invitation in words, but let me remind you, Jesus never said that they will know you are my disciple by telling people that you’ve accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour; he said they will know you are my disciples by how you love one another, not judge, not condemn, not kill, not run in fear from…but how you love them, which means actually showing up at his table and not a facsimile of one you like better.  So where do you put your faith; do you put your faith in the words above, or those words that perpetuate the rancor, that undermine leadership, that feed self-righteousness. that are smug in their conviction that only one ideology rings true.  It is my prayer that all of us, during this Lenten season, ask this question: Do they know I am a follower of Jesus by how well I love others.

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 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 Big E

question markI find it a little surreal talking about evil with any real clarity because it is so weighted in stories of fantasy, monsters, fallen angels, hell and brimstone, red demons etc.   So, let me start with this:  Christian Scripture is heavy on the  notion that all things work out for those who love.  Then where does the big “E” come in to play?  I’ve never met the prince of darkness personally, but my first hand experiences of evil through perhaps his minions were good enough to convince me of its existence.  In addition to be donned, the Father of Lies, I think another good moniker for Satan is the consummate actor and tailor: one who tempts us to layer ourselves in costumes and convinces us to portray ourselves as anything but what we truly are.  We then, are confused so deeply that we lose the ability to ask for the right kind of spiritual help.

For example, look at the chaos that gun violence has brought to this country.  There are those who think the government is evil because they believe their second amendment rights are threatened.  There are those who think the guns themselves are evil and that they should be eradicated.  I’m sure God has entertained prayers to abolish both.  Where then, does the true root of evil lie?  I would say the true root lies in the most fantastic misdirection of all.  First that God has not conquered Satan yet (in classic terms) and we think we know exactly what evil looks like and what fuels it.  When Jesus died, and before he rose, we are told of a short trip he made to hell where he basically opened a big ol’ can of whoop ass.  What does this mean?  I think that the whole point of Christ’s sacrifice, essentially is that for those who choose Him, evil cannot infect them…they have a spiritual vaccination, of sorts.  Evil is like an opportunistic virus; it can not survive on its own.  Without the human spirit to infect, it can never thrive.  Think for a moment, what better way to create a foothold in human lives than for evil to skulk around shrouded in disguise in order to infect our perception and cloud our vision.  Evil, then, like a plague that spreads like wildfire, we are paralyzed by fear and become obsessed with how to combat it, even though we’ve had the cure all along.  And we fight it, most often in the name of God and religion.  Aldous Huxley, in The Devils of Loudoun (regarding the crusades) explains it like this:

“Those who crusade not for God in themselves, but against the devil in others, never succeed in making the world better, but leave it either as it was, or sometimes even perceptively worse than it was before the crusade began.  By thinking primarily of evil, we tend, however excellent our intentions, to create occasions for evil to manifest itself…To be more against the devil than for God is exceedingly dangerous.”

So I say, the best way to combat evil in our lives is first and foremost to practice love, and never let fear take hold of how we live our lives.  Then, and only then, will we develop the acumen to recognize, free from disguise the face of evil…I will save that for another post.