Definition of idolatry
Definition of ideology
A year ago on a Tuesday, my father passed on into paradise. When I look over the past year, I see how much my family has endured, so many transitions. In going through all sorts of treasures in preparing our family home for sale last summer, I found this tidbit that I gave my father of “Eighty Things” on his eightieth birthday…they made me laugh and renewed my belief that he is still with us. I won’t share them all because you wouldn’t understand most of the personal anecdotes, so here are the highlights…
In Goethe’s “Faust’, the character of Mephistopheles, i.e. a devil, bored with all things in God’s creation, wagers a bet with God that he can tempt Faust (whom God proudly uses as an example of goodness) to commit evil acts, and thereby gain his soul and service for all eternity. Mephistopheles approaches Faust experiencing a crisis of faith and after some malicious tricks, makes a pact with Faust to give him such ultimate bliss that he would never want to leave, in exchange for his soul and eternal service in hell. In the end, love and grace ultimately win and save Faust, because try as he might to create evil moments where Faust is lost, Mephistopheles somehow creates opportunities for goodness too. The joke is on Mephistopheles, the ultimate cosmic outsider, because he has no true awareness or understanding of love…he only understands deceptions and illusions (the whole Father of lies thing). Love is our true weaponry and armor against the Mephistopheles of the world. They prey on those who feel isolated and disillusioned with the world and tempt them with those things they believe will fill their personal void, except it’s all smoke and mirrors.
The human spirit was created in love and goodness. I see it every day, and it is time to let it sing. Cumulatively we have to stand for goodness and all the hallmarks of culture that humanity has brought forth. Denouncing those periodic elements of hatred and strife is how love works…to keep silent breeds complicity, period. No one wants to confront the disparate events of hatred, but that is what goodness or love does…we transform them into something greater. In times of great evil, like Faust, lies the opportunity for goodness and love. We have been a divided country for awhile, polarizing politics have damaged relationships, I know they have damaged mine. The tragedy in Charlottesville offers us an opportunity for goodness, to walk together undivided, even if momentarily, and stand for something greater than hate. I have seen posts circulating on social media attempting to diminish these hateful groups as a handful of crazies etc. To dismiss these events that are happening around the world as just a few crazy people who don’t deserve our attention is completely missing an opportunity to shut down yet another Mephistopheles. To say it is no big deal is ultimately an act of cowardice. A small cancer is still a cancer. Acknowledging it early offers an opportunity for a cure.
So before we try and band together about hate let me say this: blaming one side or the other obfuscates the real problem. I am a liberal, and I defy anyone of you who knows me and yet still condemns liberals as a matter of course, to maintain those judgments when they see my face in their words when they disparage the party of my choice. So we tackle problems from different angles, big f-ing deal we are not evil because of it. I refuse to judge people on those kinds of generalizations for the same reasons: because I walk, work and live in a very conservative area and it is their faces I see when I engage in political discussions and refuse to disparage an entire party. Vilifying each other is just Mephistopheles whispering in our ears. Personally, in all honesty, I do take much of the unfair criticisms and name calling to heart and wonder, when they hate liberals so much, how can they then purport to be my friend? Is it that they surround themselves with only people who think like them? Is it unthinkable to disagree, to be critical in a civil manner of a president who is so negative and polarizing? Truthfully people? to work through our disagreements is the job of an engaged citizenry.
What I will condemn, and hope you on both sides of the aisle will too, is the KKK, White Nationalists, Nazi’s, and any other group who preaches hate and condemns another’s right to liberty and happiness, because they are antithetical to who we are as Americans. Being disenfranchised is a problem we can solve together, but not the furtherance of hating a group of people who don’t fit your definition of worthiness. It was disgusting when Hitler preached it and it is disgusting when they preach it now. So I offer this. Let’s take the evil and transform it by shutting it down with goodness, with love. The way Faust saved his soul, was by engaging his goodness, even in the darkest moments. So lets band together, all of us against hatred, against violence, against bigotry, against religious intolerance. Let’s together pray, bring out our goodness to the forefront and stop the judgement, even privately, and focus on who we really want to be as a nation.
Last night I went to my 40 year high school reunion…I know, right? It seems impossible to remember what it was like during those years so many decades ago, and the hundreds of people that crossed my path on a daily basis, but then…I walked into the room and spied name tags, and it was as if those memory/feeling files awakened from a long slumber and I was back in 1977. No judgement, just happy hello’s and good conversation…for the most part. It’s hard to disregard those memories, feelings and insecurities that were so plentiful from 15-18, many of which were rooted in placing pretty much every body else above myself, as if there was a game being played and every one else got the rule book, but me. I also realized, though, that even though I felt foolish a lot of the time, I had much better taste in friends than I ever gave my younger self credit for. They were good people then, only to have evolved through life’s trials to be even better versions of themselves today. Those whom I didn’t feel worthy of back in high school I felt no need to pay heed last night either, but only in the calm and resolved maturity when it just doesn’t matter any more. And besides, there were just so many good people to reconnect with and hear about their lives. There were so many happy memories, and they are the ones to celebrate and reminisce about.
It was also interesting to hear feedback from people about how they saw you in high school. I couldn’t help but laugh to myself thinking, given all the positive statements, I wonder why I felt so tortured and alone in high school much of the time? I’m sure it’s the same for many of my cherished friends, because we just didn’t spend as much time pumping each other up as we could have, a teenage thing I suppose, the inactivity of our frontal lobes…so I will do it now. I am an accomplished and educated woman…but I wouldn’t have become the me I turned into without so many wonderful people throughout my adolescence who were there to help form and support me, even if I was too myopic to notice. I was so impressed with all the stories I listened to and shared last night. Regardless of the path that each of us took, I have a much better appreciation of who they are now. 1977 was full of good people, people who help build the foundation that is me and I really am grateful. I hope, too, that I helped build a foundation for others as well. Most importantly? Like wine, we do get better with time.
In my year of bearing good fruit, today on Father’s day, I pause and wonder and pray for those whose fruit bearing was cut short, who, by our human tendency toward violence as a problem solving tool were shut down before their purpose and gifts in this life were brought to fruition. None of us can know just how other lives could have benefited and been saved by these individuals who were prematurely cut down, whether by the hand of another, or their own hand, but the future is affected nonetheless.
This year I have committed myself to be aware of those whose talents, gifts and influence have brought me thus far. They are a multitude. I am also aware of the tentative thread that connects all of these moments and actions together. What if one essential thread had disappeared, been cut short by violence? What if those God intended to be on my path at some future date were already gone? How are the many affected by a loss of a fruit that was meant as an essential benefit to someone long ahead in the future?
In a time when everyone is arguing about who deserved what, who caused what, and who ultimately is to blame, no one, it seems to me anyway, asks the very important question about what happens when human beings decide a life isn’t worth living, or redeeming, or is worthy only as a blood sacrifice. None of us are omniscient. None can know what the impact on our future will be. Yet, we are living in violent times. I understand the logic of self defense. I have heard all of the justifications. But….none of us know the mind of God or know the opportunity for redemption that could have come. As Christians, we should a least hold that as a powerful possibility too. We are told, when God is for us, who can be against us? Maybe if we had just a little more faith in that, we wouldn’t feel the need to use violence (both in words and deeds) to solve our problems.
We must do better. We must learn to work at problem solving with less vitriol. And because of all I learned last year about clarity, I must start with myself. And it is hard work. Before I went to sleep a couple of nights ago, I prayed hard that God show me how to move forward…and I didn’t like the answer. I am a vivid dreamer, and here was my dream:
I was on a rocky hill. Jesus, or my vision of him, was sitting on rock. I went and sat next to him and asked what I must do to help the world.
He smiled and said, “I have laid everything out in the Gospel” When I asked him to be more specific, he simply said “infrastructure”
Of course I wanted clarity, so I asked, “You mean like roads, bridges, foundations and things like that?”
He responded, “yes, infrastructure of the spirit. You must make roads and bridges and create a foundation all for and to the Kingdom of God.”
Feeling overwhelmed, I asked, “but how do I do that, where do I start?”
Jesus answered, “By being a servant first and foremost”
I got worried and asked, “But haven’t I been serving you?”
He looked somber and said, “it isn’t a question of past service, but what must be done to heal the wounds that are threatening the Body of Christ. The road ahead isn’t solitary, I require the Body, full and functioning. In order to heal it you must find the wounds first, and clean and remove infection so that it can grow in strength. It isn’t pretty, or easy but it must be done.”
Of course I’m all about healing (or so I thought) “I want to help heal it, show me what I can do.”
Jesus said “No servant is greater than their master, if you want to serve me then do what I have done.”
I was all in “I will, Lord” I responded. Then he handed me a towel and walked me over to a chair with a basin. I recognized the washing of the feet scenario…not too scary, I’ve handled worse. But then Jesus greeted someone behind me, and when I turned around Donald Trump was standing in front of me. My heart sank farther that I ever thought it could. Because, this is the first and last time I’ll say this, I despise him. Please understand it has nothing to do with a political party. I despise the man. I think he’s a narcissist, mean spirited, untruthful, a misogynist, weak in character and so much more. I looked at Jesus, and he looked really sad. He guided Mr Trump to the chair and asked him to remove his shoes. Thankfully he did was he was told and didn’t speak. (I’m sure my unconscious mind wouldn’t allow it). I looked at the towel in my hand and looked at Jesus with eyes that said “Really?”
He reminded me of something my son asked when he was a little boy, “Remember what you said when Connor asked you whether there was any place in hell that the love of God couldn’t reach?”
I said, “I told him that the love of God can and does reach every place in the universe”
And then Jesus said, “Show me that its true”
I literally got down on my knees and started sobbing. I picked up Mr Trump’s foot and started washing it. I suddenly realized how horribly misshapen-ed and wounded it was. Every time I squeezed the water on it, the wounds seemed to clear up a bit. Then he disappeared and it was Jesus feet in his place. They were perfect, even with the scar of the nail, they were perfect.
He said to me, “That what you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, you do unto me.” I was devastated. I had been schooled. Then I woke up. I committed in that moment to building a spiritual infrastructure worthy of the Body of Christ.
I have no clear idea of what to do. But I will work toward keeping the fruit of the future in tact, and I hope you will too. The time has come for us as servants to find the wounds and clean them and heal them, and not just the wounds we want to heal, or just the people that we believe are worthy of it. We must call out and stand in defense against any who would harm the Body of Christ…but our weapon is not a gun, it is LOVE. LOVE that flashes brilliantly to everyone to see, as proof that God can touch everywhere in the universe. We all benefit when we see Christ in absolutely every person out there. I know the journey will be hard and complex, but this dream will be forever on my mind when I walk…for the love of God can reach anywhere.
Bearing good fruit into the world demands that we get our hands dirty. Creating something from nothing, or building on something to make it better, paving a new road, establishing a novel idea, are never easy or smooth…because life isn’t supposed to be easy or smooth. The dirt under our nails, whether it is metaphorical or actual grime, is a testament to what we are willing to sacrifice to bring something to fruition. When ministry became my chosen profession, God gifted me with many opportunities to get my hands dirty in ways that were humbling and well, sometimes even gross, like unwanted interaction with bodily fluids. Serving Christ demanded I roll up my sleeves and get messy. More than anything, I learned that bearing fruit in a sterile environment is impossible.
I know I’ve said this before in different ways, but you can’t skip the middle of cultivating any dream by bypassing the dirty work. Too much of the final product is predicated on the will, imagination and effort necessary to struggle through mire in order to achieve success. While frustrating, it is perfectly normal for people who are in the middle of any pursuit to wonder if the difficulty will ever end, if it is worth it, if the fruits of labor match the effort and expectation. The road yet traveled can be a daunting proposition. For me, that is why faith is so important to the process. We don’t have to be alone in our pursuits. God is the ultimate safety net, and is ever present even in the muck. And, it is often amidst the muckiest of muck where true revelation lies. Always keeping your hands clean, or the process sterile, kills growth and can mean you miss the best lessons life has to show you. The best fertilizer for the greatest fruit is sometimes noxious. It’s a testament to God’s great sense of humor that shit is one of the greatest ingredients for growth…both literally and figuratively.
So, I say, life is not sterile. Some of the greatest fruits come from mud, even seeing more clearly.
“As he passed by he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him. We have to do the works of the one who sent me while it is day. Night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva, and smeared the clay on his eyes, and said to him, “Go wash in the Pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed, and came back able to see. His neighbors and those who had seen him earlier as a beggar said, “Isn’t this the one who used to sit and beg?” Some said, “It is,” but others said, “No, he just looks like him.” He said, “I am.” So they said to him, “(So) how were your eyes opened?” He replied, “The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and told me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went there and washed and was able to see.”
My husband called me today from a seminar on cutting edge research (8-5 both Saturday and Sunday) because during his lunch break he found out that one of our practice members fulfilled a dream of being drafted by the NFL. Years ago, this particular young man (wonderful man, even when he faced the wrath of Mary…) came into our office with a debilitating injury, a hip dislocation (Bo Jackson) that threatened his future not just in football, but all sports. They told him he may never play again, that he couldn’t put weight on it for at least 6 weeks. Just days later, he walked out of our office and now he is in the NFL (not directly, of course). He was our “first” ARP (accelerated recovery performance) patient, and with his dedication, hard work and faith, he is a testament to overcoming obstacles. I am so happy for him.
But today’s post isn’t about just this young man’s success. It is about all the pieces that fit together that helped him on his journey. I’m sure he can give you a list of all those influential people who stood in his corner that helped him to achieve his dream (I know he has thanked Steve over and over). We should all follow his lead, because as individuals we don’t do enough of that, i.e. recognizing and thanking those who help us in our lives. Not one of us is an island. And not one of us achieves anything on our own. The fruits we bring to the world are a compilation of countless influences, obstacles, opportunities, and benefiting from the fruit of others, many who go unrecognized. So let me take a moment to say a few words about the man who helped him on his way.
Most people don’t realize that Dr Edling is always on the cutting edge of embracing new and innovative approaches to health (which are soooo different than fads). I have never met someone who is as passionate about sustaining, maintaining and forging new roads for optimal health as he is. As an athlete himself, whose life was derailed by an injury, he has worked tirelessly to find ways and technologies so no young athlete has to let go of a dream. Whether it is through constant study, new technologies and going way beyond the call of duty, he is one of those special few who refuses to be defeated and absolutely loves and is committed to his work. No one is more thrilled, save the person themselves, than Dr Edling is when success is achieved and goals are met, and many times even surpassed.
Much of the time, his voice is a solitary one, one that pushes and maintains that change is up to the individual, that it is often a scary and challenging proposition and never an easy pill to swallow. The answers aren’t always easy to find, but he is there, though, every step of the way, through the frustration, sometimes pain, the problem solving and adaption when other questions arise. He has done the work, the study, put in the sacrifice, the investments in the best technologies. Most importantly he is present, available and stands as a partner to everyone who walks in our practice door looking for better health. Whether their needs are structural or metabolic, he gives 100%.
He may be a little embarrassed by this post. He never toots his own horn, so I will…only because the gift of his fruit, is making dreams possible for others, and that makes me proud. I see his enthusiasm for innovation, selflessness and commitment in our sons too, so that I’m confident the gift of his fruit will continue, and that also makes me proud.
I’ve been quiet. I’ve been busy. I’ve been stretched. I’ve been focused. I have lingered on this beatitude for awhile. Mercy: I have yearned for it, received it, exercised it, celebrated it, and embraced the hope it brings. I have also, at times, stood with an aching sadness at the lack of it in the world in both small and large ways. Mercy was at the heart of my spiritual awakening and is the sustenance for my soul. And it is mercy both in its effort and absorption that keeps my house clean when I am tempted to throw it by the wayside and rage against the lies and cruelty and ignorance and ego and judgement and entitlement and fear. In desperate moments I remember Jesus in the garden sweating blood because his fear and anxiety was so deep yet was still willing to give his Godly heart for my flawed human one. My life transformed because he augmented my broken heart with his heart. And it was then that I became his fruit, a viable product of his extraordinary life and sacrifice, a means by which the power of mercy can live and stay palpable in our often sad and desperate world. When I allow his heart to be my heart, mercy is air, it is breath, it is life, it is everything.
Remember the story in the Golden Book series about the red hen who begins the arduous process of planting, growing,harvesting and preparing the wheat to make bread? Along the way she asks for help from various animals who, for no apparent good reason, decline to help her in her work? In the end she, with a great deal of snark, asks if anyone would like to share the finished product…the other animals who refused help finally chime in, and in perfect self justification, the hen says no and keeps the finished product all to herself. A simple story about the results of hard work and who should enjoy the spoils of said work.
I think there are two important issues here. The first, the bearing of fruit is rooted in hard work. Yes, I see the pun, but it still rings true. Often times we are so focused on the end result that we disregard the effort it takes to bring something good to fruition. The second important issue for me, and one that the red hen while perhaps justified personifies, is the belief that the lines are clear between who deserves the fruit of labor and who does not. I wish life were as simple as portrayed in the story, but the lines drawn between who deserves the fruits of labor and who does not are absolutely not clear, and it is a trap we as Americans have fallen into and largely what the last election was predicated on. It is also runs contrary to everything I’ve learned in scripture.
I get it, why give the other animals any bread after they refuse to help? There are a host of potential reasons that could mitigate why the dog, cat and duck refused to help: poor health, exhaustion from helping out in another situation, a lack of understanding what to do, secret yearning to be rid of the hen, or a multitude of other reasons, many of which can also be bad. The reasons are infinite. One would have to be interested in why, but due to the job that the hen wanted done, concern for why the other animals refused to help wasn’t part of her need or plan at the time. She had work to do to accomplish her goal, and that can be a good thing. I, personally, see a lot of myself in that red hen, as I’m sure most people do. The problem arises when the work is finished and the choice is made how to share. Just taking a moment to understand the other animals could have made a huge difference in her choice.
I eat plenty of bread that I had nothing to do with making. I get to share in many fruits of others where I played absolutely no part in their creation. I drive on roads, attended schools, share in new technologies that enlisted no help from me at all. Of course, I’ve paid a price for many of these things, but many I have not. I’m lucky enough to be the beneficiary of a host of fruit that I personally paid nothing for at all and had little if anything to do in their creation. If I’m truly humble about it, there have also been times when I’ve been asked to help and I may have appeared like one of those animals in the story, and yet I still received the benefit of the final fruit. The actual foundation of my faith is rooted in the greatest freebie of all: eternal life by the sacrifice of Christ.
Yet on the other side of the coin I know with great certainty that there are plenty of people out there who have benefited from my hard work, who either don’t have a clue, or were happy for me to do the work for them. In all truth, there are moments, like the red hen, where I don’t want to share, but they are far and few between because challenged by the words of the Gospel and my faith, I choose to go beyond initial judgments and dig deeper into the people who seem to want something for nothing. Walking in someone’s shoes strips initial judgments away, and almost always I learn my initial assessment is either off, at least triggered my compassion. In some cases, delving deeper into who the people are who actually extended the hand of help to me actually exposed a more corrupt character than initially presented and who turned out had far more nefarious reasons for helping, and I’ve escaped harm from them too.
I guess the point I’m making is two-fold, you can’t bypass hard work in bearing good fruit because the end result isn’t the same. Secondly, the decision regarding who should benefit from the fruit of that effort is never black and white. It is a difficult balance, I acknowledge that, but when you spend a bit more time on actually seeing and knowing the people who surround you and being grateful for the fruit that others bring to the table the shift is powerful. Sharing a gift hard fought without measuring the worthiness of who benefits can be life transforming too.
A woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth, from the city of Thyatira, a worshiper of God, listened, and the Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what Paul was saying. After she and her household had been baptized, she offered us an invitation, “If you consider me a believer in the Lord, come and stay at my home,” and she prevailed on us.
After Paul and Silas were beaten and imprisoned for freeing a girl of a demon, the jailer was converted when after fervent prayer an earthquake felled the walls of the jail, but they refused escape to protect the jailer. Overwhelmed, he asked what he needed to do to be saved, they told him of Jesus, witnessed and baptized his whole family and he bathed and addressed their wounds. After refusing to leave quietly, because they were falsely detained without trial as Roman citizens, they walked proudly out the front door and went directly back to Lydia’s house where they saw and encouraged the brothers and then left.
It took me a long while in my study and ministry to understand the power and gift of Lydia. Imagine the difficulty of traveling all these territories spreading the gospel. Foreign places full of strangers with nothing really to travel with. Those few lines in Acts bring it home. She offered them a safe haven, a generous hospitality that enabled them to face hardship, yet continue their ministry. I wrote a paper about Lydia in graduate school, using her simple, yet powerful gesture as an example of environmental leadership. What Paul and his entourage did was extremely difficult, and because of people like Lydia, they could stop, refuel, take a moment to regenerate to begin the journey anew.
I never underestimate the power of hospitality, especially in terms of leadership…because being a good leader is hard. But when welcomed in and nurtured in a safe haven, they can become their best selves, and that in and of itself can be the the greatest gift to the world, bringing out our best selves to build the Kingdom of God. Face it, the world can be a scary place and we as individuals and faith communities can be a powerful source of love and safety for those on their life’s difficult journey. Never underestimate the power of hospitality, even if it means just sitting next to someone who appears afraid, or standing up for someone who is being bullied or oppressed. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture, but compounded together these simple gestures can be beautifully transforming. Go ahead, be Lydia.