Category: Explorations

See

See

How do you see me?

When I was a teenager, I gave my father a Bible with the inscription, “use and read it every day.”  Fast forward thirty years—to my father writing me a letter in which he describes that moment saying “it made me wonder what I looked like to you.”

Recent e-mail and text exchanges with a friend have brought this pondering to the forefront of my mind and heart . . . what do we look like to each other?

The circumstances of our birth and our life experiences do determine a particular frame of reference, or context, if you will, for how we are seen and how we see others.

My being inhabits a white female of almost 60 years of age with graying hair. Although I have had a “Lily Munster” gray streak in my hair for 30 plus years, which has prompted more than one person to say “did you do that on purpose?” I am of short stature, and getting shorter as time passes it seems, and am of average weight for my height. I’m an only child and grew up in a middle-class suburb of Washington, D.C. in the 60’s and 70’s.

I come from a protestant background having attended United Methodist churches most of my life. Although I did attend a Brethren, Baptist and Four Square church for short periods of time. My youngest son, and later my cousin, introduced me to Eastern ways of spirituality which both broadened and deepened my past and current understandings about God.

Married, divorced, re-married . . . raised three boys . . . daughter . . . mother . . . wife . . . grandmother . . . college graduate . . . retired teacher . . . what do these conditions and situations make me look like?  How am I perceived?  And in what ways do I use them to disregard, misconceive or misinterpret others?

Perhaps this is one reason part way through his Sermon on the Mount Jesus says:

“Don’t judge, so that you won’t be judged. For the way you judge others is how you will be judged—the measure with which you measure out will be used to measure you. Why do you see the splinter in your brother’s eye but not notice the log in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the splinter out of your eye,’ when you have the log in your own eye? You hypocrite! First, take the log out of your own eye; then you will see clearly, so that you can remove the splinter from your brother’s eye!” Matthew 7:1-5

Calling us hypocrites seems rather harsh for such a compassionate man.  That could be intentional because how we see, our judgements, limit our ability to see ourselves and each other clearly.

A guest pastor at the church I attend, gave a message about this very topic.  She suggested that when we wake up in the morning and look in the mirror to say out loud, “I’m God’s beloved.”  She strongly enjoined, adjured, and exhorted us to see ourselves and others through God’s eyes—simply yet profoundly as His beloveds.  This enlightened perspective places all of us within a broader context which doesn’t appear to be open to narrow contextual perceptions.

Because of a quiet and reflective mood, this post is not my most impassioned, but written with a heartfelt desire for us to see one another with only God’s eyes.  I fail and will fail miserably, but it is my earnest daily and moment to moment desire.

As I do maybe all will become transparent . . . and Light will truly shine through the prism of His Love . . . and I will see and be seen,

. . . as God’s beloved.

I can see clearly now, the rain is gone.
I can see all obstacles in my way.
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind.
It’s gonna be a bright, (bright), bright, (bright) sun-shiny day.
It’s gonna be a bright, (bright), bright, (bright) sun-shiny day.

I think I can make it now the pain is gone.
All of the bad feelings have disappeared.
Here is the rainbow I’ve been praying for.
It’s gonna be a bright, (bright), bright, (bright) sun-shiny day.
It’s gonna be a bright, (bright), bright, (bright) sun-shiny day.

Look all around, there’s nothin but blue sky.
Look straight ahead, nothin but blue sky.

I can see clearly now, the rain is gone.
I can see all obstacles in my way.
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind.
It’s gonna be a bright, (bright), bright, (bright) sun-shiny day.
It’s gonna be a bright, (bright), bright, (bright) sun-shiny day.

Johnny Nash

Obituary

Obituary

For the season of Lent, my pastor has been leading a study on the Apostles’ Creed. He gave us “homework,” write an obituary for Jesus. My imagination ran amok with the creative possibilities. The end result is what follows . . .

Jesus bar Joseph, 33, died Friday afternoon after being severely beaten, scourged, and crucified for his so-called blasphemous claims of Messiahship. In testimony before Caiaphas, Herod, and Pontius Pilate, Jesus testified that he was, in fact, the Son of God.

Jesus, also known as the King of the Jews, according to prosecutorial signage hung above his thorn-crowned head, was born to Joseph and Mary in Bethlehem sometime before 4 B.C. His exact birth date is unknown. Evidence suggests a summer or fall birth due to a very bright star.  This “star” depended upon planetary alignment, according to Magi from the east that supposedly followed it to Jesus’ birthplace in a stable. There was no room in the local inns because of a census being conducted at the time.  However, shepherds keeping watch over their flocks nearby, offer an alternative spring birth date.

Questions abounded about his paternity as it was asserted his conception was immaculate and his mother a virgin. These claims have not been adequately substantiated.

Shortly after his birth, his family moved to Nazareth in Galilee, where he was raised as a devout Jew.

Preceded in death by his father and close cousin, John the baptizer, and never married, he is survived by his mother, siblings and a ragtag band of disciples (fishermen, tax collectors and others including a few women). They followed Jesus for three years in the hopes he was the Christ, the Savior, and the King that would overthrow the Roman Government.

At the age of 30, he gave up his father’s trade of stone masonry and carpentry to go into full-time ministry, having stated early on he had to be about his father’s business. While Mary is said to have treasured this in her heart, other family members and friends were puzzled by this quizzical statement.

The lakeside village of Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee seems to have been his home base where he spent the last three years of his life ministering to the least, the last, the lost and the lonely. He preached and taught in homes, synagogues, open fields and the temple in Jerusalem using parables about God and God’s will for their lives. His best-known teachings came to be known in time as the Sermon on the Mount and the Golden Rule.

A deeply compassionate man, he healed all who came to him with illnesses, and never hesitated to touch lepers or use whatever means necessary for these so-called miracles. Because his teachings seemed to contradict Jewish law, due to large crowds that followed him and the fact that many of the miracles occurred on the Sabbath, Jesus often found himself at “odds and on a collision course with the religious authorities.”

Additionally, he was known to have exorcised demons, most notably from Mary of Magdela. Other supernatural powers reported were: turning water to wine at a wedding in Cana; calming storms at sea; walking on water; feeding over 5,000 people with a single loaf of bread and few fish on one occasion and over 4,000 on another; and raising the dead. Lazarus of Bethany claims he was one of those dead and resurrected. He and his sisters—Mary and Martha—can be contacted for further testimony to the validity of this particular event.

Three days have passed, with no services held and no flowers or donations given. His followers are insisting he has risen from the dead—as Jesus once said he would, citing the tall tale of Jonah and the Whale.

Roman guards are stating his body was stolen in the middle of the night by his disciples. Yet the unanswered question of how the moving of a huge boulder was not seen or heard is troubling. The matter is further complicated and truthfulness doubted because the first eyewitnesses were women who came to anoint his body with oils and spices.

However, his disciples are adamant, as Simon, also known as Peter, and John, the “beloved disciple,” ran to the tomb and found it empty.  The napkin said to have been wrapped about the head of Jesus, was found folded and lying separately from the other grave cloths.  The significance of this gesture can only be deciphered through the knowledge and understanding of Hebrew meal time traditions.

The body has not yet been recovered and there are assertions the guards were paid for their testimony.

Certainly, a controversial figure, his life begs the question: who was this Jesus—Son of God or delusional huckster? You decide.

Some would call this decision a “leap of faith.”

I call it trust.

Word

Word

Why do people seem to get so hung up on the men who wrote the books of the Bible?

Why is it easier for some to believe that the Koran “the Islamic sacred book, believed to be the word of God as dictated to Muhammad by the archangel Gabriel” is the word of God and the Bible less so?

What about A Course in Miracles transcribed by Helen Schucman?

“‘This is a course in miracles.’ That was my introduction to the Voice. It made no sound, but seemed to be giving me a kind of rapid, inner dictation, which I took down in a shorthand notebook.”

Why does this “Voice” appear to have more legitimacy than the prophets and apostles of the Bible, because she’s a woman? Why does it seem more permissible to believe other holy writings are God’s word, but not the Bible?

I’m not questioning the validity, trustworthiness or authority of any of these or other sacred texts, or God’s ability to speak through them. I just want to know . . .

. . . why does the Bible appear to get such a bum rap?

Maybe these other spiritual works have their critics as well . . . maybe the Bible doesn’t get as much unfair treatment as I believe . . . the misinterpretation of the Bible has certainly caused much misery and heartache over the centuries, and continues to do so.

In defense of itself as the Word of God, the Bible says:

Then Adonai gave me (Moses) the two stone tablets inscribed by the finger of God; and on them was written every word Adonai had said to you . . . Deuteronomy 9:10 . . . and he is to read in it every day, as long as he lives; so that he will learn to fear Adonai his God and keep all the words of this Torah . . . Deuteronomy 17:19 . . . See, the Word of God is alive! It is at work and is sharper than any double-edged sword — it cuts right through to where soul meets spirit and joints meet marrow, and it is quick to judge the inner reflections and attitudes of the heart . . . Hebrews 4:12 . . . All scripture is God-breathed and is valuable for teaching the truth, convicting of sin, correcting faults and training in right living . . . 2 Timothy 3:16.

The men who compiled the Bible and the men who wrote it may have had less than honorable motives. Considering the time frame in which it was written, the authors probably didn’t have much in common. However, through all the verses, chapters, and books, one theme seems to unite these scribes—God’s desire above all else to be in harmony with Herself, through that which He created, in, with and for Love.

“God-breathed” . . . theopneustos in Greek . . . “inspired by God, due to the inspiration of God; relates directly to God’s Spirit (pneuma) or breath; breathed out by God.” This, I believe, is the key to the writing and reading of the Bible—the power and revelation of the Holy Spirit—God’s breath.

The real question, then, is not “why does the Bible appear to get such a bum rap?” The real question is, through which conditioned belief are you reading the Bible?

To read it outside of Her Breath—patriarchal supremacy, Christian fundamentalism, black/white power, feminism, whatever label with which you may most identify—is to take the Word out of context and use it to abuse others who may not share your particular identity.

“We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord. We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord. And we pray that all unity may one day be restored . . . and together we’ll spread the news that God is in our land . . . And we’ll guard each man’s dignity and save each man’s pride . . . And all praise to the Spirit, Who makes us one.” Peter Scholtes

Despite their differences and regardless of their reasons, intentions, awareness (or lack thereof)

. . . God was writing.

Creed

Creed

During the season of Lent, our pastor is doing a study on the Apostles’ Creed. This past week we discussed the middle section which also happens to be the longest portion . . .

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day, he rose again, he ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father, and will come again to judge the living and the dead.

Half of the creed is devoted to one of, if not the most, controversial figures in history; not only in our time, but in his own as well.

Just prior to his transfiguration, he questions his disciples, “Who are people saying I am?” They answer, “Some say you are Yochanan (John) the Immerser, others say Eliyahu (Elijah), and still others, one of the prophets.” Mark 8: 27-28

As our study was drawing to a close, we discussed different parts of the central portion of the Creed. The most thought-provoking claim or perhaps mysterious or implausible (depending on your perspective) was his conception and birth.

Some may say, “what difference does it make if Jesus was conceived like the rest of us?”

Even before pondering His beginnings, I’ve never had an issue with his conception and birth because this is God—the Creator that brought everything into existence; who is outside of time, space, and matter . . . yet paradoxically moving and working within all three—what could be too difficult or impossible for Him?

However, for me, another revelation began with Eve.

When contrasting Eve and Mary, a few simple insights came to light. After Eve came to be, she and Adam “knew” each other and shortly thereafter she was intimate with the adversary, (serpent, Satan, or devil, if you prefer) and “birthed” sin into the world. Mary, on the other hand, had “known” no man, was intimate with the Holy Spirit and birthed sinless redemption into the world. Sinfulness or alienation cannot save, or redeem, sinfulness; it would be like saying two wrongs make a right.

In essence the immaculate conception and virgin birth point to God knowing Herself, entering the world through Herself as Himself to justify all that is Himself.

Clearly there are deeper and more expansive themes to be explored; such as being conceived and born in this manner. Jesus never saw himself separate from God—something with which we often struggle. And this notion of separateness beginning in the garden with Adam and Eve embracing temptation, and identifying with power and control in and of themselves.

You may not agree with any of this; it may seem far-fetched or unimaginable . . .

. . . that’s okay.

I’m not sure what I hope to accomplish, if anything, by presenting these thoughts. God knows I miss the mark more often than not when it comes to living this life, but my heart longs to Love and my Light longs to shine.

What I do know is that when life gets tough and answers are not forthcoming, like Peter, I say “Lord, to whom would I go? You have the word of eternal life. I have trusted, and I know that you are the Holy One of God.”

. . . the rest, as they say, is His-story.

Remember

Remember

My father said, “there’s more of those in the world than people.” Seated in the backseat of the car, maybe 10 to 12 years of age, I looked up to see the hind end of a horse being towed in a trailer.

Being rather naïve, I had no idea what he was talking about. But since getting my driver’s license and driving for 44 years, I now understand his inference.

Recently as I was waiting at a stop light to turn right, the person behind me honked his or her horn after the light turned green. I—and the person in front of me—had nowhere to go as the traffic was backed up.

What did this person expect us to do, magically fly over the traffic? He or she could clearly see that no cars were moving. Up until the horn honk I was very patient. Once I heard that blaring beep, however, I let go with my own slang description of a horse’s rear end.

Which leads me to the one conditioned behavior that I have the most difficulty shedding—the belief that I am unworthy of being loved.

How can God possibly love me when I mess up so frequently?

I think it is this erroneous belief that prevents many people from turning to and acknowledging God. They mistakenly believe that they have to quit their “bad” behavior before professing their faith. “As soon as I (fill in the blank), I’ll talk to God.” Essentially, they are saying, “I’m not good enough for God to love me.”

That’s the point, isn’t it?

None of us is “good enough,” yet “we are precious in His sight and He loves us” (Isaiah 43:4).

Abraham lied about Sarah being his wife to save his own hide. Jacob twice tricked his brother out of his birthright and his blessing. King David had an affair with a married woman and then had her husband killed. Rahab, the mother of Boaz and great-grandmother of King David, was a prostitute. Forbidden for Israelites, Samson married a Philistine woman.

Yet God used all these people in miraculous ways because they trusted Him in their “unlovable” state.

As soon as the profanity popped out of my mouth I said, “I love you. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you.” The native people of Hawaii call this Ho’ppono, a powerful act of redemption and remembrance.

In a book study at church this morning, we discussed the book of Deuteronomy and how Moses spent his remaining hours on earth reminding the Israelites repeatedly to remember . . .

“. . . that God was as personal as they themselves . . . that He spoke to them and listened to them . . . that He expressed His love for them . . . that He was merciful . . . that He longed for them not to forget Him when things were going well . . .” (The Bible Jesus Read: Why the Old Testament Matters by Phillip Yancey).

“I love you. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you.”

Let this be your prayer of remembrance.

I’m working on it.

Casting Cares

Casting Cares

When did complaining get such a bad reputation?

I recently saw a meme on Facebook that left me bewildered. I don’t remember the complete tagline; something like “this is what happens when you complain.”

Above it was two side by side pictures of Jesus seated next to a person on a park bench. In the first photo Jesus is dressed in his oft seen attire of his time period, clean and whole; listening intently. However, in the second, he is stripped (except for his loin cloth), crown of thorns on his nodding head, multiple lash marks about his body, bleeding profusely.

I guess the meme creator means to infer when we complain we re-crucify Christ.

What a horrifying thought!

Wouldn’t that negate his final statement, “It is finished?” Wouldn’t his resurrection become null and void? Wouldn’t all hope be lost with a single complaint? Wouldn’t our conversations with God become full of trite and meaningless gratitude platitudes? Wouldn’t superficial exchanges become the norm?

I’m not advocating complaining for the sake of complaining; certainly no one enjoys being around a sour puss.

I am suggesting that memes like the one described may make one reconsider being open, honest and genuine when expressing his or her feelings to the Creator.

The Old Testament prophet, Habakkuk, sometimes called the complainer, wrestled strenuously with God’s decision to use the Babylonian Empire to punish Judah’s sins. Then with a change of heart he magnifies the Lord,

“For even if the fig tree doesn’t blossom, and no fruit is on the vines, even if the olive tree fails to produce, and the fields yield no food at all, even if the sheep vanish from the sheep pen, and there are no cows in the stalls; still, I will rejoice in ADONAI, I will take joy in the God of my salvation. ELOHIM Adonai is my strength!” (3: 17-18)

Throughout the book of Psalms, David passionately assails God with all his doubts, fears, and anxieties. Yet, in the very same book, he fervently praises God for His goodness, grace and mercy.

Surely of all people in the Bible who had a right to complain, it was Job. He lost all his wealth, his health and his family in one fell swoop and was left with an impatient wife who said, “curse God and die.” To add insult to injury, three of his supposed friends told him his loss was his fault because he sinned.

In his despondency, Job vehemently moaned, wailed and grumbled to God (or maybe I should say he sincerely articulated his pessimistic perspective) and yet the only thing that God chastised Job for was his ignorance, not his complaints.

After which, Job says, “I had heard about you with my ears, but now my eye sees you; therefore, I detest (myself) and repent in dust and ashes.” (42: 5-6)

This must be why Peter says, “Throw all your anxieties upon him, because he cares about you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

Authenticity with God seems to inspire a humbled cathartic experience.

I can live with that.