Please excuse the snark to, you, the general population: “Get over yourselves!” I implore all of you, before you get all whiny and memey on social media…check the veracity and appropriateness of your tweet, update, meme, gif, etc. If it will not help the particular situation you are complaining about and is just to express outrage by sharing convicting “facts” about a person or issue that has you rankled (I checked at least a dozen this morning…ALL of which were inaccurate and just plain MEAN), then I DON’T WANT TO SEE IT. Part of my committing to clarity this year is to stop tolerating the cyber-bullying that people put passive/aggressively out on social media.
So let me ask you this: tell me something positive you’re passionate about, give me more stories of passing it forward, tell me how you are going to make the world a better place. Doing and saying something positive doesn’t have to be monumental. Major ripples start small. Let’s you and I change the culture. Let’s start with halting any and all political rhetoric that has defamatory language toward any person, place or idea.It should be the mission of every ordinary man and woman out there to see and inspire goodness. Share a book that inspired you, make us laugh, tell someone how they’ve impacted your life. Help build someone one up rather than beat someone down.
See goodness and it will multiply…Remember whatever you put out there will come back to you tenfold.
It is a slippery slope when science modifies nature without regard for the consequences. As uncomfortable as it is talking about the mess we’ve made with our foodstuffs it pales in comparison to what humanity has done with the scripture that is meant to save the world. While I realize that the words of Jesus are subject to interpretation, like our modern made food stuffs, if we aren’t careful the words can be compromised. The torture for me is trying to understand and embrace the real truth. How can I have a better handle on the teachings of Jesus than anyone else? I’m just a person with a singular perspective. Yes, I have a degree in theology, I have devoted much of my life in the service of Christ and yet I have no greater claim on truth than anyone else who shares in the gift of grace. So here is my take. While it took me awhile to realize that the bread I was eating was poisoning and being rejected by my body, so it is with my soul rejecting some of what is being preached as the Word of God and not in the way that the Gospel challenges us and makes us uncomfortable to become better Christians, but more visceral. Like the body’s rejection of manufactured foods, manufactured faith is just as lethal. I’m speaking about the kind of faith that may taste good, but really isn’t good for you.
After writing and then deleting the start of this paragraph about 50 times, once again I have accept the fact that I may sound self-righteous and a bit arrogant…but there is so much violence and hatred even among Christians, that I just can’t stand it anymore. I think of it like this: the primary focus of our faith shouldn’t be on weaponizing it to keep people out, or beating down Satan in the way of pointing the finger at the evil of the moment. For the love of all that is Holy, people! Jesus fought that fight, so we don’t have to. Our only job….let me say that again, OUR ONLY JOB is to LOVE ONE ANOTHER AS JESUS LOVED US. Love feeds the soul and makes it stronger. Hatred, judgement, fear, anger, self-righteousness emaciates the soul and makes it weak.
Just think about it for a moment. Is the Body of Christ alive and well? Does it consist of only what you have a taste for? Scripture, like life, can’t be rewritten to appeal to the crazy pace and affluence of modern living. Our bodies become stronger when we exercise and put forth hard effort, even when it’s uncomfortable. Our immune systems become stronger when they are put to work naturally to fight off illness, and sometimes that means dealing with sickness or physical challenges. Our souls, demand the same kind of workout. Being a Christian isn’t always about consuming things that taste good, sometimes we just can’t eat candy or cake…we need vegetables and protein.
The Word of God, is Gods and when the Word is used to serve only individual purpose we poison them. In the end, the strength of the soul will be defined by how well we can love one another…of that I am sure.
The pinnacle of our church year is Easter Sunday when after Lenten days of fasting we can shout, “Alleluia, He is Risen” and truly celebrate the joy of Jesus’ great sacrifice. For those of us today, though, it’s all hind sight. We already knew what was coming, we read the end of the book. Think for a moment what it was like for the disciples and the rest of those who Jesus loved (namely the women) between the last supper and that fate filled Sunday morning. How dark, sad and lonely must their thoughts have been. They weren’t waiting with bated breath outside the tomb for Jesus resurrection, no, they were hiding in secret, in a room, afraid for their lives.
I’ve always wondered about those dark three days, when their faith was put to the ultimate test. Did they suffer the doubt and shame of not saving their friend, or was it anger that he wouldn’t save himself, or perhaps grief that what they had believed for three years was a pipe dream, a fairy tale? When it came right down to it did they really believe that he accomplished what he came for? All those months of witnessing miracles and spell binding sermons and now this? It must have been torture for them, this dark night of the soul, especially since they actually lived with Jesus every day and believed completely that he was the Son of God. But what about the rest of us? We have the easy part, we get to celebrate the resurrection year after year. And why I must extend this great challenge: how are we any better than those men hiding in a secret room?
While I don’t want to take away the power of the resurrection, I am amazed at how many are stuck in the darkness. He is risen, the veil of the sanctuary torn, the dead raised, and the gates of hell broken, all as our heritage tells us and yet more than 2000 years later we still live in fear. We, who know the end of the story and filled with His grace still persist in living lives where judgement reigns in the forefront rather than love, and condemnation rather than celebration. Remember these words from Matthew when he spoke to his disciples: “All power in heaven and earth has been given to me. Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
He is with us. I truly believe that if everyone really believed those words, we would embrace everyone with love, because He is with us in every action. That which you do to the least of them, you do to me, Jesus said that, not me. You can’t make disciples of nations by condemning them…that is the darkness of the room talking, not one who has brought us into the light of His new day.
There is an obscure rule in the law called, “The rule against perpetuities”, to which I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out in preparation for the bar exam, (even though my instructors almost guaranteed a question regarding it would certainly not appear on the bar exam…of course there was…they obviously didn’t know that when it comes to me and odds, I’m of the, “May the odds be ever in your favor, Hunger Games” ilk, and so I apologize to everyone else who took the test that day…) Sidebar concluded. Anyway, the rule against perpetuities basically placed a statutory limit as to how far a dead person will have control over the distribution of assets to future descendants. While I still may have trouble with the particulars of the rule, I always thinks it’s a good idea to limit the power one has to control the future of another.
But how often do we hold on to, in perpetuity, our own sins, the sins of others and even sins projected onto future descendants who remain tethered to those past injuries or judgements? It is takes so much energy to hold on to all that anger and is just as unfair to future generations who have to deal with the fallout. I think if more of us looked to see what collateral damage there is to holding onto grudges, judgements, and condemnation, perhaps then refusing forgiveness wouldn’t be as common. I think refusing forgiveness is the greatest weapon against the spread of the gospel. Think again if you feel immune, because you are not. All of us have baggage, and if you think that holding on to it has no effect on those around you, you are also mistaken.
The only thing that I am sure of lasting into perpetuity is the love of God, the sacrifice of his Son and the need for God in my life. That doesn’t mean that love’s affect can’t be blocked or inhibited. Continual forgiveness of oneself and others is the key that will keep the door to the kingdom open. God gave us the key, the choice to keep it locked or unlocked every day, as a matter of principle, is on us.
I 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.
Numbers are generally not my forte, but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate them, or understand their significance in our lives. There is a great song lyric from the song, “Seasons of Love”, from the musical “Rent’ that I love: 525,600 minutes, how do you measure a year.” This weekend, working at a “Feed My Starving Children” event at Osceola High School, less than 250 high school students, faculty, and a handful of parents, assembled 300,000 meals. That means 822 children will be fed for a year, 432,043,200 precious minutes of life sustained and celebrated. Actually that last number gave me goose bumps because 432 is a sacred number, (for my science and religion students, Joseph Campbell pointed out the significance of this number), as well as the square root of the speed of light, and how the golden mean is exemplified in sound (432Hz tuning). And this very number is repeated twice in those precious minutes we helped save this past weekend!
I’ve been focusing on these words of Jesus this year, “Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive” and “Every good tree bears good fruit.” This event was the perfect, shining, harmonic example of everything Jesus was talking about. By the hands of the few, many are saved. So many good trees, bearing good fruit. There is nothing more powerful than that. It was done with joy, celebration and mad organization by the staff of “Feed My Starving Children” and Joel and Heidi Hazzard who sponsored the event. Duplicating loaves and fishes and even moving mountains doesn’t have to be complicated. Simply joining together and working together can accomplish amazing things. Congress could learn a lot from these young people, who came together from all different social groups to work in concert together and accomplish an amazing goal. I’ve always said the most extraordinary things are accomplished by ordinary (and yet amazing) people.
: a feeling of being offended by what someone has said or done
I started this post several times, wanting to be positive, a bit less controversal, and with propriety. I couldn’t do it because I did promise a sense of wild abandon, so here goes. I seem to take umbrage with almost every angle of the state of women in our world today. I am sickened by movements to censure, mutilate, deny education, control and retract any advances made through history. And yet, I take as much umbrage with a culture that objectifies, sexualizes, and at the opposite end values a woman based on some prudish matronly definition of goodness. Seriously people, what in the sam hill is going on?
Jesus set the standard so clearly in his ministry. Women were of great value to him; especially women who chose his instruction over what culture restricted them to, check out the Mary and Martha story…( I blogged about it here, maryfrancesflood.com/2012/06/18/im-a-mary-and-not-a-martha/. I think women owe Jesus a great deal for the place that he brought us to…and with that comes responsibility. We, as women, must take a stand against those who would force us to lose the sacred ground that many fought so hard to attain. So where the hell do I stand?
While I am plagued with fear when I hear most men speak of rape, whether on a college campus, foreign soil, a military base or from the mouth of a politician, I have to admit that I am plagued with as much fear at the cavalier attitude and sexually charged culture in this country. While I think we should celebrate our physical bodies, I am tired of how sex inundates our culture. I don’t want to see young women run around in their underwear, or clothing designed to cradle a man’s package. While I am not a prude…I say EEEWWWWW! The pervasiveness of sex in just about everything is a problem for me. Being a good lover by today’s standards is understood by sexual prowess and not in the way the gospel intended. Getting better at sex will never help us get better at love…PERIOD. And it won’t help us reclaim our power either.
I have thought long and hard about whether or not my attitude is based on my aging form and diminishing beauty…and then that very thought even pissed me off! Who defined aging and beauty anyway? Well, I include myself when I say we all had a hand in that too. With age, I’ve gained great experience and education and was for a moment ready to hold those accomplishments at a lesser value than my aging appearance…and yet, in all truthfulness I understand why. We live in a culture that worships youth and marginalizes maturity. Look at the amount of money that goes into physical beauty; the money women spend on achieving some skewed idea of youthful perfection is tragic. We could save all the starving children in the world many times over, if we allowed ourselves to age naturally and dump our obsession with beauty regimens.
I’m not saying as women, we can’t try to be beautiful and celebrate our sexuality. But if we aren’t working as hard for the standard the Jesus set, i.e. we are as valuable as any man, and are offered the same gift of grace, with the same expectations for our behavior…then we’ve failed on a massive level. Let’s be better at loving, starting with ourselves.
I’ve always found comfort in these particular words of Jesus: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” And yet…really? my bank account hasn’t changed. Let’s go back and read verses preceding the one I just mentioned. They are an admonition against judgement and pointing out the flaws in others while unable to see our own. The offer of receiving whatever we ask for comes only after we stop our judgy behavior and look at our own flaws first and foremost. While that may seem depressing, Jesus doesn’t leave us wallowing in our wicked imperfections…he says, “which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asks for a loaf of bread, or a snake when he asks for a fish? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him?” While he chastises our behavior, it still won’t prohibit God from answering our prayers.
Of course there are qualifications…God responds to our requests with “good things” God would never give us anything harmful. I suppose asking for something bad would never qualify. So how then, do we know what good is? What follows gives us a clue. Jesus highlights the golden rule: “Do to others whatever you would have them do to you.” He also encourages us to enter through the narrow gate that leads to life, and not the wide and easy gate that many will follow to destruction. He warns of false prophets whom we will only know by the fruits they bear, followed immediately by “for a rotten tree can never bear good fruit”. The lines are drawn clear: good tree, good fruit…bad tree no fruit. Goodness can only be known by good fruit.
So what is good fruit? Is it success, wealth, fame, popularity, prowess or power? I suppose it all goes back to what each of us sees when we pull that humongous plank out or our eye. We can never see goodness while our vision is clouded; there are too many false prophets out there that exist in obscured vision to lead us astray. Only goodness can perpetuate goodness, rotten trees never can…and we all know what happens to trees that bear no fruit whatsoever (remember the fig tree). It doesn’t need to be complicated, we simply start by not judging and pointing out the flaws in others before we can even see our own, treat others exactly how we want to be treated, pray to god in secret with faith, and he will respond with goodness, from which we continue to bear good fruit. Pretty much sums it all up.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus functionally begins his ministry at a Samaritan well talking to a woman. I say he functionally began his ministry, because he had just left the desert from being baptized by John the Baptist. So what a place to start: not only with a woman, but a Samaritan woman, and even more so, a Samaritan woman of ill repute. What makes this particular event so powerful is that just prior to this conversation in the previous chapter comes the famous line he spoke to the Pharisee Nicodemus: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but have eternal life.” We never get Nicodemus immediate response, but from Jesus we get an inclination that he wasn’t completely sold on the idea: Jesus makes it clear that those who prefer the cloak of darkness and fear exposure of their wickedness are already condemned. So after journeying to Samaria, while his disciples had gone to look for food, he stopped for a drink of water. What followed, (I will make you read it for yourself) was nothing short of remarkable…especially given the timing.
I think it is remarkable because he not only spoke to this woman of ill repute, but he talked to her as if she were anyone else of equal value. She was the first person who, when told he was the Messiah, believed him right then and there. (Nicodemus was most probably still pondering the idea and the disciples were amazed he was talking to a woman and concluded he simply needed to eat something). You see this is of utmost importance because he knew all about her disreputable past, appreciated her telling the truth, and then offered her everything, because she, like all those who came after her, were in need of and wanted everything he offered. She wasn’t afraid of the truth, of being exposed. And yet I still wondered, why her? Jesus must have recognized a remarkable quality in her, because even though she was a woman of ill repute, when she went back into the village saying, “He told me everything I have ever done, could he be the Messiah?” they actually came. She wasn’t afraid of her wickedness, like perhaps many of those who feared Jesus. She wanted the light.
What would his ministry have looked like had Nicodemus believed him right away instead of perhaps falling into his fear of exposure. What if it was he who ran and said to the people “I have met the Son of man who will bring us eternal life” maybe Jesus whole ministry would have transpired differently. The Samaritan woman stood in truth when exposed and that made all the difference in the world.
I’ve embraced that breaking out in a cold sweat will be the new normal as I write this first post for the new year. After the title popped into my head I knew I needed to write before I lost my nerve. Here goes.
Every person on this earth is of consequence. Everyone. God’s plan for the world is weakened, altered whenever we lose sight of this most fundamental idea; we are in this together. How do I know this? Just read the Bible, actually most Holy Scriptures. Since I am a Christian, this is how I know this. In Jesus’ wheelhouse of people, he spent the majority of his time with the least desirable, most despised, greatest sinners…etc. He chose simple fishermen for his disciples, and often the oddest of people to dine with and talk to. His reach went beyond the limitations of class, ethnicity, religion and politics; everyone mattered. Everyone deserved to hear his message He especially avoided those who had held the prestige of class and distinction….because they had forgotten who God was, and how to build up His Kingdom.
I don’t think it is difficult to draw a parallel to modern culture. We have become as exclusive, judgmental, bigoted and narrow-minded as those who were threatened by Jesus in his day. We have forgotten who God is and how to build up His Kingdom. To twist the words of Jesus to exclude and redefine who is acceptable to God is nothing short of blasphemy. So don’t. God celebrates every one of us, he doesn’t make mistakes. I hope that isn’t a hard pill to swallow, because to each of you who really hates a section of the population for whatever reason…stop, because they are precious in God’s eyes.
Ouch, I know that can be harsh. So I have to see preciousness in the people who literally make my skin crawl? Yes. That doesn’t mean that we all go hug a random criminal or (insert name of the faction of the population you hate the most). So here is where I move beyond “of consequence” and on to consequences. Saying the phrase, “of consequence” and believing it is hard. Most people I know are insecure and struggle, in a variety of ways, with low self esteem…that includes those who appear über confident and present the illusion to the world that their shit doesn’t stink. It is what drives the angry divisive, bullying behavior of people today. Those who really believe they are precious, essential, loved and important just don’t behave that way. I also think it is why people refuse to accept responsibility for their own choices, and how that is manifested, I suppose, is different for each person. For example, I think the one of the reasons the Pharisees hated Jesus so much is that he took their power over the people away. If Jesus was the Messiah they had been waiting so long for, they were no longer formidable. Their self-worth depended on knowing more, having more power, the exclusivity of being the God’s chosen people, rendering them more important that everyone else. Jesus virtually pulled the rug out from under their belief of who the Messiah would be, not a mighty King, but a loving servant. That could not have set well. They were precious in God’s eyes and yet there were dire consequences of what they did. How are we supposed to love that?
Being “of consequence” will never render the “consequences” of any our actions in the world null and void. We all live by the choices we make and often suffer the fallout of choices others make. We have to hold others accountable, but only in a way that offers the possibility of being “of consequence” again. I’m not naive, the world has some pretty evil stuff going on. But remember that we are not alone, God is truly with us and for us…all of us. And until we can believe that we are all precious in His sight, even though we all sin, we have to stop throwing stones, the kind that destroy and not build up. We have to stop blaming the government, the 1%, the poor, ethnicity, ideology… the list goes on and on. Jesus said, that whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me. Holding ourselves and others accountable while still seeing the worth in all sinners is how we grow and how we grow to understand God. I just want people to understand that the kind of choices we make change when we look in the mirror and believe that the person who is looking back matters, is important, and is an expression of God’s great creative mind. Because if you can’t see God’s creation when you look in the mirror, you won’t be able to see it in others either.
In a world where so much goes wrong, it can be easy to wonder where all the heavenly help has gone. You know, you hear all those stories of mystical beings springing out of nowhere to save the day, never to be found again to be thanked, but I wonder…is that the exception for angelic behavior, or the rule? I know Jesus inferred many times that heralded help may not always be what it appears, wolves in sheep’s clothing, thieves in the night. So how do we know? Is it a good standard to escape the pain and difficulty that are almost essential to mastering the game of life? Is it logical to surmise that when things go our way, heaven is behind us and when they don’t we are being punished or plagued by a demon? I say unequivocally, no it isn’t logical…but then again neither is God. That isn’t to say that God can’t behave logically. God just isn’t defined by it. Logic is a human invention to help make sense of life and discover truth. It will never be a primary tool to uncover and understand the divine.
So then, it’s complicated. If heaven is beyond and not limited by our comprehension, how do we know when help is near…and more importantly when it’s not, and we are just being duped into deeper and deeper illusion? That’s when I rely on the teachings of Jesus. I truly believe in the realm of angels, because Jesus did. And while I may not understand all that entails, I do understand Jesus when he described the different kinds of people who would follow his words. The parable of the sower in Matthew 13 is a perfect description of those who abide by his teachings: there are those who are more shallow and the words never take hold, those who don’t hold them deep enough and forget the minute things get rough, those whose would use them for their own thorny purpose and choke the life out the message, and finally, those who let them deep into the soul and nurture them till they bear fruit. I always pray that I am of the latter, but time and humility will tell.
That’s how I feel about angels. I am aware that I need a lot of help if I am to nurture this seed of faith that I’ve been given. In hindsight, though, my personal magical moments hardly ever consisted of being swooped up and saved by a heavenly messenger, rather it usually meant knowing I could survive the pain of heaven peeling away the darkness and replacing it something brighter and more pure, whatever the situation. Angels don’t make our lives easier, they help us make it better, and that sometimes means harder. They direct us down a better road, often the least traveled or obvious. They help us defy and ascend logic by demanding faith in that which we cannot yet see, but have been told to be real. Their presence is with us all the time, yet because of free will, requires our permission to assist in sowing the sacred soil of the soul. The fruit of which, is to extend an angelic hand to someone else, not necessarily to save, but to serve.
Occasionally, moments pass that renew my hope in the world of men, that there are signs of evolution a midst a myriad of stories that would suggest otherwise. It has been disturbing to watch the NFL implode with story after story of violence and disregard for behavior necessary for a civilized society to thrive. I pay special attention because my youngest son plays football, and wants to continue to play in college. Frankly, I’ve had mixed feelings about participation in a sport that allows, and to some extent has promoted the kind of thuggery that has recently been highlighted.
Then, something happened that calmed my fears and inspired hope that not all football players need go down the same road. This past week my son’s team mate lost his mother to a brave fight with cancer. It is horrible to lose a mother so young. But survival can be eased by a simple grand gesture. The night of the weekly team dinner that the parents provide for the team, they came dressed in their team jerseys and before the meal cheered for their team mate, and all went together along with coaches to support their friend at the wake in his time of great need.
A wake is uncomfortable for everyone, but even more so for tough football players. The fact that they all banded together…close to thirty guys, and entered the funeral home together, quietly and with grace to show their support was, as one physician who was present stated, “the most beautiful gesture”. Words are not always necessary, a quiet, loving presence speaks volumes. The NFL could learn a thing or two from these men.
In all sincerity, I’m not sure whether it is having spring and summer occur simultaneously that has thrown my whole rhythm off, or the unbearable nature of events. from shootings, to the ravages of mother nature, to the quagmire of American politics. I’m sad much of the time…not the cry your eyes out kind, or the can’t get out of bed kind. The sadness I feel is like a dull ache based on recognizing a pattern that too many people seem to miss and not feeling like I can act effectually enough to stop it.
The pattern I speak of is fear, the kind of fear that is so deeply in-bedded in our nation that we have begun to suffer a rigor mortise of the soul, expressed in both subtle and obvious ways. Most obviously, it is expressed in the kind of partiality that blinds one to solutions because national pride lately is only celebrated in opposition to something else, such as guns, the government, climate change, the poor, etc. In more subtle ways is the complete lack of civil discourse between divergent views, and sense of entitlement that isn’t extended beyond a small group of like-minded individuals. I know I’m personally tired of being written off, or pigeon holed into a particular ideology that I certainly am not contained by because I ask questions and try to look at a situation from a multitude of perspectives. The political flavors of the moment are too honed into a blanket kind of hate, blame, and judgment of anyone who harbors a different idea than one’s own. Personal responsibility rarely enters the picture. What is most disturbing, though, is the religious imprimatur that is often used to justify such ignorance and fear.
Jesus says that the truth will set us free, and the way to truth is through him…and he is LOVE. Love will set us free. So let us practice love, first and foremost. Fear will be our demise, if we don’t utilize the powers we’ve been given… And so I offer a reminder of our greatest gifts: 1 Corinthians 13:1-13
1 If I speak in human and angelic tongues 2 but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.
And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing.
If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.
3 Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, (love) is not pompous, it is not inflated,
it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury,
it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.
It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
4 Love never fails. If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing.
For we know partially and we prophesy partially,
but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.
When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things.
At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.
5 So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
I tell my sons this all the time. Much of the lifestyle we live, is earned and I am proud of that. As much, however, is not. I am always mindful of that I live in a rich country, have freedoms that others fought for, have the ethnicity that offers more opportunity to me than to others. I am gifted spiritually by Grace, and perfected by God’s sacrifice. I am NOT entitled to anything, except the opportunity to love as Jesus did and help bring light to a world that often seems dimmed by smoke and subterfuge…so that we cannot see that we are blessed, created by and vindicated by God.
I can’t help thinking that if we really believed that we were greatly privileged, and wore that greatness as a badge of honor, we would embrace the responsibility to love and honor each other so much more easily. We’ve been lulled into believing that we will never have enough, will never be enough, and the world’s acceptance matters. We should be better at it by now, you know, loving one another and being the Body of Christ. We are way too obsessed about gaining what is rightly ours…when nothing really is, in this temporal world, all is fleeting and none of it will matter in the next world.
I know it doesn’t mean we stop practically living in the world, but we would live differently if we really believed that we could. I think that is what Jesus meant when he said, “Sell all you have and follow me”. With the privilege of Grace, comes responsibility.
The song “Ordinary Love” by U2 sparked a notion in me that substantiates a belief that I’ve had for a long time. Here is the link:
These particular words strike a chord:
“We cannot fall any further if we can’t feel ordinary love, and we cannot reach any higher if we cannot deal with ordinary love”
It seems all too often, that many Christians bypass mastering the skills of ordinary love to claim expertise in the extraordinary love of God… in reality, if we can’t master the basics, if we bypass the difficult process of learning to love as Jesus taught us, the simple everyday expression of patience, kindness, slowness to anger and judgement, walking in another’s shoes etc., we can NEVER comprehend the extraordinary love of God, and love as God does. In a sense, it is like bypassing all that comes before any high achievement and claiming entitlement to the prize anyway.
Let me be clear, mastering ordinary love is different from sharing in the grace bestowed on us by Christ’s great sacrifice. That gift isn’t earned, it is free to all, but mastering love only comes with often painstaking practice and experience. Grace is the conduit to an endless source, which only is as powerful as our ability to master ordinary love and infuse it into the world. That is what Jesus meant when he said: “they will know you are my disciples by how you love one another.” It doesn’t have to be complicated…it’s all laid out in the Gospels. It is putting it to work every single day, as strenuously as we would an exercise program, with no shortcuts, that creates a Master.
On occasion, I will have a dream that is not only eye-opening, but trans-formative in its effect. The details are not important, but the resulting clarity is. How many of us can look in the mirror and with no doubt look at one’s reflection and see a remarkable person looking back? I do, and for some reason I have always felt bad about that. What I woke up this morning understanding, is that a large part of why I am remarkable is two-fold:1) recognizing the amazing gifts I’ve been given, now before you throw up…2) the remarkable part is that I also understand that I am as equally flawed…deeply so, which is also a gift in and of itself. I know that I am flawed, and I’m OK with that…because you can only change what you can see. When I became open to seeing my flaws, I could also see remarkable talent (please don’t get tired of the word…we all need to use it more often)
We spend so much energy covering up the flaws that we think we have, so we can look perfect on the outside, that we refuse to recognize the raw materials that each of us were given to work with. Those raw materials can’t be honed until we recognize that they exist. Insecurity, low self-esteem, false pride, platitudes, and the inability to be objective about the lessons we are all given but refuse to learn from, keep us from seeing those gifts. Wasting energy wallowing in the fact that we are flawed is wasted energy, developing gifts, can help us transform those flaws into virtues.
The most important thing I learned from my dream is that being able to see myself objectively is one of the things that makes me remarkable. I am genuinely surprised when others can’t see themselves the same way….because they don’t see themselves as remarkable when they look in the mirror. I am committed to pointing out the remarkable and not assuming that you know it. The flaws you can figure out for yourself.
This 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
Sometimes it is so simple to speak the truth, but dangerous nevertheless. This young girl is my hero, and proof that the Universe has more in store for her. We could all learn a thing or two from her about simple truth and moral courage. Kind of makes our government look foolish…No? When a young woman like this will take a bullet for the right to be educated, and the powers that be don’t even tap into the truth that free education and information can bring it is easy to feel hopeless, but Malala is living proof that perhaps truth and goodness can prevail. Watch this link from The Daily Show:
That is one of my favorite movie lines from all time, and it was what popped into my head when I worried about how to continue my discussion on illusion. I thought of using “breaking bad”, but since the series just ended, I didn’t feel right usurping any searches that way. While I think the first instinct for most people is that they would really like the truth, to see it, know it and live it…I have to be honest and say that I don’t believe that for a minute.
I didn’t sleep much last night, and as I often do, I prayed hard that God may break any illusions that may hold me prisoner, and to bless me with even greater truth. And that is exactly what God did. Except not at first, at first there was just silence…so I turned on the TV, as I often do when I can’t sleep. As I pressed the guide on my remote, there was a movie on called “Desert Flower”, thinking that it might be an opportunity to get an answer to my questions, I watched it. It was about the life of Waris Dirie, a super model who suffered the humility of female genital mutilation, or female circumcision and became the world’s foremost crusader against it. I’m not shifting gears into this heroic struggle, but there was a point in the film, when she flashes back to when she was a three year old girl, playing and kissing her mother and the graphic horror of what happened when held by two woman who mutilated her without anesthesia . I sobbed long and hard, of course as a mother at what pain and horror that baby went through, and because of the horrible subjugation of women that still occurs around the world. Through my tears, though, I still wasn’t ready for sleep, so I kept watching T.V.
The movie that followed, was called “The Magdalene Sisters.” It told the stories of four young women in 1964 Ireland who labeled”fallen” by their families, were sent to Magdalene Asylums to suffer manual labor doing laundry and other penance as appeasement for their sins. The abuse and humiliation these young woman suffered all under the tutelage of the Roman Catholic Church, was just as painful to watch. Again, I don’t want to talk about that injustice right now either. Here was my uncomfortable truth: In this moment of time, I have it unbelievably easy, I have control over my body, my mind and my voice, and I won’t be punished for it. I am free to choose the life I live and choose what I want to believe, the operative word being “choose.”
While it is not perfect, my country allows me this freedom. I am grateful for it, and proud to live as an American citizen. Of course, that isn’t the greater truth. The greater truth is this; All of our voices matter. We, the people represent different ethnicity’s, religious beliefs, sexual orientations, socioeconomic status, intelligence and gender. That is why we have a republic, a representative government. Coming up with solutions that will represent all of us is tricky and hard. I think Congress has forgotten that fact. In this crisis I have become biased, and angry that one small group of people thinks that their voice matters more than anybody else’s. So I’m using my voice to declare loudly, “Knock it off! put your dicks back in your pants and pass a CR to reopen the government. Quit pointing the finger at each other and COMPROMISE! and that doesn’t include what has already been made into law and upheld by the court. DO A BETTER JOB. QUIT CLAIMING TO SPEAK FOR ONLY THOSE THAT THINK LIKE YOU DO AND TRY AND WORK FOR US ALL FOR A CHANGE…that is what we elected you to do.
To conclude, let me just say that I had to be reminded of how little power many woman have around the world before I was challenged to exercise my own. I will do better.
Here is something that must be said. Simply stated, my faith in God is central to the way in which I observe the world—but that is just me. Although devout, I wouldn’t describe my faith as typical. I know I’ve said this before, but as a theology student I was given an assignment to find a biblical passage to represent my faith…my choice?: King David dancing naked before the Ark of the Covenant—draw your own conclusions. In the rash of religious fundamentalism that has taken hold of many in today’s world, I am almost a bit embarrassed to share my passion and devotion to God for fear of being pigeon-holed as an advocate for some of the idiocy that has come out of some religious fundamentalists. However, this post can be helpful to anyone regardless of where they are in life’s great journey or what philosophy or theology they embrace. My purpose here is to simply help people reflect on, and have a stake in how they choose to observe the ordinary things in this world because it matters more than you may realize. The many Christian and other spiritual images I use serve to illustrate what I have learned, and they just seem to make a lot of sense to me. More than anything, it is faith that God is behind me at all times that gives me the strength of this conviction: All things, are indeed possible.
Let me say this: the connections I’ve made based on how I observe the world have led me to new ideas which have resulted in becoming an effective force for change (or a force to be reckoned with depending on the day). Simply put, I found that most of the materials necessary to live out the movie in my head and the answers to my life’s questions came wrapped in ordinary brown paper, free for the taking. As much fun as it is to believe that a secret society, centuries ago, has buried the secret to happiness in countless riddles all over the globe, the truth is that it has been right in front of us all along.
The key lies in how to observe the ordinary: using ones own cosmic imagination to see everyday raw materials as essential ingredients in creating something greater, to achieve ones dream. I may just be stating the obvious, but I’m amazed at how many people don’t even begin to use the simple things that are right in front of them. They look, but do not really see. The growing sense of fear and despair in the world is all the proof that I need to bring a message of hope. Observing the world as one that is evolving into greatness shapes the very way one moves and creates in it. This is not just another take on “attitude is everything.” When I use the word “observation,” I’m not speaking about a passive action, rather, one that is the root of all creation and growth. I, in my ordinary-ness, am as essential a factor in the world’s equation for success as any president or king, because my observations are unique to me alone. And because they are unique to me alone, they can be the exact ingredient necessary for my greatness somewhere else.
Another observation I’ve made is that too many people want to bypass the middle of any process. We live in a day and age where the easiest route is always the best route, regardless of the cost. Having status is far more important than the process by which one attains it. What happens when one is given something too easily, without the opportunity to earn it? In an age where technology has made all our lives so much easier, perhaps we have lost the motivation to work hard…for anything. That may be a hard bit to swallow, but there is evidence out there to prove my point. I find the amount of money that goes into gambling and lottery pots around the world staggering. It is certainly more than the GNP of many third world countries in the world. What really is the end result for bypassing the middle where all the hard work is and jumping to the end? I think part of the reason that we want to bypass the middle is that there is a subtle underlying message today that tempts us into believing that life shouldn’t be hard, that there are ways to bypass any difficulty and that if you can’t fix it within a moment’s time, throw it away and buy something better. Sadly enough, there are more than enough individuals out there who have, to put it bluntly, just stopped moving period, forcing the rest of us to find our way around them.
I would also venture to say that most people out there have, at times, considered themselves to be inconsequential when it comes to making an impact on the world. They don’t see themselves as an essential element in something much greater. It is this belief that has created the grey cloud that is obstructing clear sight. I am here to say this: the roots of colossal change lie in the smallest and simplest things which often go unnoticed by the naked eye. When you bypass the middle of any process, you miss all the important stuff. It is the mustard seed approach that Jesus spoke about: taking something small and seemingly insignificant and learning to have faith in its potential, to put forth the effort to nurture it and see its place in the distant future, far after it has left my circle of influence. Like the beauty of our DNA’s double helix, every single element is essential in creating the blueprint that becomes a human being. It is the compilation of many different elements that expresses our potential. Why not look at our human family the same way?
Being in the middle of a process can also be, at times, tedious, hard work, full of uncertainty, and time-consuming. It also demands a great deal of humility and faith in the work being done and the process as a whole. It is my hope to give credit and encouragement to anyone in that middle place, where the effort is not glamorous, but is no less essential than finishing the job. All of us, at one time or another has had the tedious job of passing a bucket. Columbus may have been credited for discovering America, but when it came to the discovery of chocolate he was just a middle man