Misstep Category


Questions

Questions

“Abortion is the dividing line for me as a Christian voter. A party that associates itself with infanticide can never have my vote.” Adriaan Jenkins

Why is this the one issue at which she draws the line? What about all the many ways our world supports actions that are directly or indirectly the cause of infanticide, genocide, and war crimes?

A dividing line of this sort implies there are “sins” to the right and left or above and below. What is it about this “sin” that makes it better or worse than all the rest? Is there a scale of sins of which I am unaware? If so, which transgressions are “worse” and which are “better” and where do I find this “sin scale” in the Bible?

I am well aware of the Ten Commandments but when did they become a sliding scale of offenses? And what qualifications determine the order from most sinful to least sinful?

Is Ms. Jenkins, and those who re-post her quote on their FB pages, aware of all that this limited and narrow-minded thinking implies?

Does it mean that habitual, pathological lying is okay within a political party? How about sexual assault? Is it permissible for us to elect a sexual predator as President? What about a political party that systematically dismantles environmental protections? Why is that issue not the dividing line? What can I get away with and still be voted into office? If the 2016 election is any indication, then apparently quite a bit.

“If Jesus had a gun, he’d still be alive today.” (as seen on a Bumper Sticker)

How and when did Jesus become associated with guns? Did I miss that verse in the gospels? When did Jesus become a card-carrying member of the NRA? Is the originator of this quote talking about the same Jesus that said, “Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword” in Matthew 26:52?

Can this gun-toting Jesus be the same one that spoke these words? “If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Matthew 5: 40. Isn’t this person missing the point of Jesus’s death and resurrection in the first place? I guess his or her pro-gun preference takes precedence over the redemptive message of the gospels.

When did healthy debate between opposing points of view become vilified? When did either/or thinking become preferable to and/both logic? When did we, as a nation, move from pro-humanity to pro-American? When did hating someone because of their association with a political party become acceptable? I have friends that have said, “I hate Democrats.” Why?

Oops. Wait a minute.

I just fell down “the rabbit hole into a subterranean fantasy world populated by peculiar, anthropomorphic creatures” one of which asked me, “can you stand on your head?” while his headless body was precariously balanced atop his own.

Trying to figure out or argue with insanity only makes one insane as well, thus perpetuating the insanity. I can only point towards logical and reasonable implications and inferences.

Jesus did not enter into the apparent lunacy of his day and time.

I will defer to William Barclay from his insightful book, The Mind of Jesus to explain.

“He used the reductio ad absurdum. He was accused of casting out devils by the help of the prince of devils. His answer was: ‘How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end.’ Mark 3:23-26. With one shrewd blow Jesus reduced the charge of his opponents to an absurdity.

He used the logical dilemma. He did not break out in railing rebuke against those who brought to him the woman taken in adultery. He simply said quietly: ‘Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.’ John 8:7. He silenced his opponents by impaling them on the horns of a dilemma.

He used the argument a fortiori. ‘If you then,’ he said, ‘who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him?’ Matthew7:11.”

However well-intentioned the arguments of many of the current Republicans, Conservative Christians and those with similar extreme opinions are, their beliefs have originated within minds that see themselves separate from God. Until they examine the pain, hurt, prejudices, and conditioned beliefs in their hearts, very little for them will change. They will continue on a path towards an ever-hardening heart.

Do not give in to discouragement, and do not lose hope.” (Pope John Paul II) This is what I imagine Jesus saying to those who have had abortions.

Jesus did not argue an “eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” with a gun in his robe. Jesus, with open hands and an open heart, said “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” Matthew 5:39

To all of us he says:

“For I am telling every single one of you, through the grace that has been given to me, not to have exaggerated ideas about your own importance. Instead, develop a sober estimate of yourself based on the standard which God has given to each of you, namely, trust.” Romans 12:3

I feel better now.

Clay

Clay

When I was a little girl, my best friend was Hal, a neighbor boy that lived in a house directly behind mine. Our backyards bordered one another. We played together so frequently that my father placed a piece of insulated padding over the top of the chain-link fence and arranged a piece of railroad tie at the base as a step to make it easier for us to climb over.

In Hal’s yard near our fence-hopping spot was a tree and underneath that tree the earth was barren, with little grass. The soil there, when mixed with water, made excellent mud pies. If Hal was not around, his younger brother Eric and I would often play in the “dirt” making sludgy desserts.

These were the memories that crossed my mind as I attended a pottery class for the first time.

Our instructor whizzed through the directions and demonstration in what seemed like five minutes. So quickly, in fact, that my first question was, “OK, what am I supposed to do?”

When asked what was the most difficult part of the process, my answer was “all of it.”

The first step is “wedging” the clay to remove any air bubbles. Our instructor, when performing this, slapped and pounded her piece of clay quite forcefully.

The next step is centering—getting the clay on the wheel correctly, solidly in the middle, so it does not wobble or slide around. This action requires quite a bit of pressure as well.

This is followed by “opening the dome” where you insert your thumb in the center just beyond the knuckle. After checking the depth, you gently pull the clay towards you until the piece is the size you want it to be. Using both hands, one on the inside and one on the outside, you “raise the walls.” Both of these undertakings require different amounts of steady force.

In the meantime, adding water as needed and maintaining an accurate speed for the spinning pottery wheel.

All sorts of hilariously frustrating results occur when any one of these undertakings is slightly off.

Of my three attempts, two looked like toilet bowls and one looked like a cross between a flower vase and a flower pot. I scratched the commodes and kept the vase-pot.

Afterwards the following verse came to mind.

But now, ADONAI, you are our father; we are the clay, you are our potter; and we are all the work of your hands. Isaiah 64:8

Taken at face value, this verse could imply that God is like a master puppeteer pulling our strings so we can do His bidding.

However, after further meditation on my pottery experience, I think it is more like when I surrender myself to God, She takes all my “sins”—my mistakes, my missing-the-marks—and, in an ongoing process, with varying amounts of pressure, molds me into a breathtakingly beautiful vessel.

The writer of the book of Romans says it this way:

Furthermore, we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called in accordance with his purpose . . . 8:28

The song “Something Beautiful” by Bill Gaither fits nicely too.

Something beautiful, something good
All my confusion He understood
All I had to offer Him was brokenness and strife
But he made something beautiful of my life

If there ever were dreams
That were lofty and noble
They were my dreams at the start
And hope for life’s best were the hopes
That I harbor down deep in my heart
But my dreams turned to ashes
And my castles all crumbled, my fortune turned to loss
So I wrapped it all in the rags of life
And laid it at the cross.

Surrender . . . listen . . . you’re beautiful.

What if

What if

If darkness is the absence of light and death is the absence of life, what if wrath is the absence of lovingkindness? What if wrath is not necessarily anger and punishment?

What if wrath means being brokenhearted, consuming passion, feeling deeply betrayed, or consuming grief (keseph, charah, chemah and aneph in the Hebrew respectively)? Suppose it is human beings that regard the word wrath in terms of anger and punishment and not God?

One of the many lessons I learned in counseling over the years was that anger is a “hard” emotion that covers the “softer” emotions. We get angry for many reasons, but that anger—a superficial reaction—is a cover for other vulnerable and deeper responses.

If God is love as the Bible says He is,

“Beloved friends, let us love one another; because love is from God; and everyone who loves has God as his Father and knows God. Those who do not love, do not know God; because God is love.” 1 John 4: 7-8

. . . then would not this alternative perspective make God’s lovingkindness clear and obvious? Would it not give a more accurate picture of God as a loving parent as pictured in the parable of the prodigal son or a lover as portrayed in the Song of Solomon or a husband as depicted in Hosea?

“I will betroth you to Me forever; Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice, in lovingkindness and in compassion.” Hosea 2:19

We are the ones who ran away from home, broke the engagement while running after another lover and divorced ourselves from Him. Adam and Eve chose to believe The Lie—that God’s perfect love was not true; that Atonement (at-one-ment) in Life was an illusion. We traded truth for deception. We chose to believe we were separate from God. We determined to turn away from Light and Life.

Imagine that the mocking, beatings and whippings Christ endured was not God’s anger, but my own, your own, our own anger that we inflicted on Him due to our erroneous beliefs, our mistakes, our missing the mark?

What if Christ’s crucifixion was not a punishment of our sin, but rather evidence of the deprivation of Love?  What if the animal sacrificial system of the Old Testament was not about satisfying God’s wrath, but about illustrating there is no separation in an impermanent way—pointing to the permanent way?

Could the crucifixion and resurrection be God sacrificing Himself—His expression of what separateness from Him truly looks like and in His resurrection revealing we are not separate at all?

“As you gaze upon the crucified Christ, the great turnaround happens – it’s not we who have to spill blood to get to God, we have God spilling blood to get to us.” Richard Rohr

What about “spare the rod and spoil the child” as an example of God’s anger? What if our viewpoint was instead “thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me?”   What if the rod is not used to punish but to protect?  The Shepherd used his rod to safeguard the sheep from their enemies and to gently nudge those in his charge in the right direction.

What about “vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord,” the seeming warring God of the Old Testament, the doom and gloom prophecies of the books of Daniel and Revelation?

Rather than a punitive God, could those teachings possibly point to the picture of God as a parent taking a stance of “tough love?” The parent uses the seeming absence of his or her guidance and love to draw attention to the perils of the child’s choices.

Likewise, God, paradoxically uses the absence of Light to illuminate just how dark is separation from Life, revealing the truth of at-one-ment.

What if we stop beating others over the head with an angry God and truly loved as Jesus taught us to love?

“Here is how love has been brought to maturity with us: as the Messiah is, so are we in the world. This gives us confidence for the Day of Judgment. There is no fear in love. On the contrary, love that has achieved its goal gets rid of fear, because fear has to do with punishment; the person who keeps fearing has not been brought to maturity in regard to love.

We ourselves love now because he loved us first. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar. For if a person does not love his brother, whom he has seen, then he cannot love God, whom he has not seen. Yes, this is the command we have from him: whoever loves God must love his brother too.” 1 John 4: 17-21

Did you notice? Not judgement in the sense of fear and punishment, but one of love that brings about a turning from darkness and death to Light and Life.

Or if you prefer the words of John, Paul, George and Ringo . . .

There’s nothing you can know that isn’t known
Nothing you can see that isn’t shown
There’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be
It’s easy
All you need is love
All you need is love
All you need is love, love
Love is…

 

Contrast

Contrast

On the steps of the grand staircase of the main dining room aboard the Grandeur of the Seas cruise ship is a statue of a woman dressed as if stepping out of the roaring 20’s. Artfully attired in chic elegance, the bronze beauty appears as a symbol of sophistication and class.

During my first evening meal as her guest, I began to think about Downton Abbey—”a British historical period drama television series set in the early 20th century,” a seeming contrast between the lives of the wealthy and the lives of those in service to them.

I’ll admit I felt a bit ashamed. What right did I have to enjoy this vacation? Was I really deserving of the luxuries this sculpture represented? What brought on this crisis of conscious?

After having a lengthy and meaningful conversation with Fathul, our assistant waiter, at breakfast the next morning, I wondered if the burnished figurine might represent something far more significant than temporary affluence and fame.

Fathul explained how he had signed a contract to work for six and a half months aboard the ship, with two months off at the end of that time period when he will return to Indonesia for a brief respite with his family.

He went on to say he left home because his father was ill and unable to work. “I’ll work, Papa,” he humbly expressed as he described leaving a wife and one-year-old daughter behind. Modern technology allows him to facetime with his family regularly after his 11-hour shifts—five in the morning with a lunch break and six in the evening.

Later, in a quiet and reflective mood, I watched as men and women from 50 different countries contentedly worked in one accord with honor, dignity, and great joy.

Hmmm . . . the effigy of worldliness began to turn my thinking upside down.  What was I thinking?  That the employees were marginalized and that I was somehow better than them?  Good grief!  How presumptuous and arrogant!

The next evening, Ramraj, our waiter (from Mauritius), said:

“I believe in God. I don’t always go to temple or church, but I work hard and that is my prayer to God.”

WOW, could I really say the same? That my life is a prayer to God?

Colossians 3:17 says it this way:

That is, everything you do or say, do in the name of the Lord Yeshua, giving thanks through him to God the Father.

I had never seen Christ so clearly then at that very moment!

With my serving of humble pie, for the remainder of the cruise I gave thanks for the vastness of God’s mercy, grace and love so evident in His glorious creation and in His beautiful children.

Thank you, Ramraj.

*A special thank you to my Soul Sister, Minta, for suggesting the statue as the image for this post.

Creation

Creation

I have been described by some friends and family as peaceful, patient, and Zen-like. Others have said my “still waters run deep” when referring to my calm demeanor. My response to these observations is, “you have no idea what’s going on inside my head!”

Such was the case Sunday morning while listening to an inspiring message about the image of God (using the Biblical text from Genesis, chapter one), when a gentleman turned to me and said “He’s preaching creationism.”

I thought to myself, “who gives a flying rat’s …” Oops.

Let me rephrase, what difference does it make how the world was made?

What is the purpose of this argument? Is it so either side can demonstrate a sophisticated knowledge of theological and scientific principles? Is it so one side can declare there is a God and one side can deny Him? Or perhaps by trying to reconcile these arguments there will be peace on earth? Does this argument solve the problems of world hunger, world poverty, wars, famine, sex trafficking, and so on? Does the winning or losing of this argument make a difference to the least, the last, the lost and the lonely? Do the widows and orphans really care about this debate?

Perhaps it is a question of “what will we teach the children?” My own sons may have been confused about the answer as my own belief on the subject at the time waffled back and forth. The issue was one that never caused us not to believe in God, but I was curious. Because of this, a book wound its way into my lap—The Case for a Creator—by Lee Stroebel (which I highly recommend, if you too are curious).

As a sixth grade Science teacher for many years, I had an intuition every day that I was talking about God, and I found my suspicion confirmed.

Even so, I am still content to trust the One whose ways are not my ways and whose thoughts are not my thoughts; “as high as the sky is above the earth are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

My intent here is not to offend; if I have done so, please forgive me. I understand that this is a deal breaker issue for many people.  But this is only to share my frustration over a comment about a message that seemed to be so clearly pointing to something much deeper and profound than Creationism—what is the image of God?

In fact, that was our homework assignment—to ponder, research, and pray about the answer to that question. We, as a congregation, and he, had many great answers and he promised to unpack it more next week (I for one can’t wait).

What brings me to my knees in awe is His Love.

First Corinthians chapter 13 in the Bible is known by many as the Love Chapter. I’d like to suggest that the true Love Chapter is Genesis chapter one—God in intimate relationship with Himself and His creation and declaring it all in harmony, “it was very good.”

Forgiveness

Forgiveness

Oddly enough, with Thanksgiving and Christmas approaching, I find myself thinking about the people, places, and events of Easter—specifically, the “two others” (as one Bible translation calls them) that were crucified on either side of Jesus.

What did they do to deserve the most excruciatingly painful, humiliating, degrading, torturous and cruelest punishment ever devised?  Who were they?  Did they know each other beforehand?  Were they partners in crime?  Did they have family members standing at the foot of their cross?  If so, were those beloveds grieving, cheering or something else?  What were their professions, or did they even have one before they became “evil doers” (another translation’s interpretation)?  What led them to the choices they made that culminated with them nailed to the stake?

 In the books of Matthew and Mark, these men were referred to as “robbers” and both men joined in assaulting Jesus with insults.  However, in the book of Luke only one of these two “criminals” verbally accosted Christ while the other “rebuked the first” saying “Ours is only fair; we’re getting what we deserve for what we did.  This man has done nothing wrong.”  The second man, it appears, had a change of heart.  Why?

Had he seen or heard Jesus speak, perhaps at the Temple or on a hillside?  Was it the sign hanging over Jesus’s head?  Could he even read “This is the King of the Jews?”  Was he familiar with the Passover story?  Had he ever participated in a Pesach Seder?  I think perhaps the eyes of his heart were opened when he heard the first man say to Jesus, “Aren’t you the Messiah?  Save yourself and us!”—his heart burned within him as he asked “remember me when you become King.” 

Jesus, who had a habit of being in the right place at the right time, received this dying man’s plea and confession of faith.  With all the love his breathless voice could muster, he spoke “Yes, I promise you will be with me today in paradise.”  I can only imagine the utter relief, deep peace, complete gratitude and overwhelming joy and love that flooded the redeemed criminal’s heart and soul.

“In my defenselessness, my safety lies” is a teaching my cousin often quotes to me.  I cannot defend all the infinite missteps I take in one day—some bigger than others (as a recent occurrence has pointed out). I can only seek forgiveness.  My pastor said: “Defenselessness is strength.  It testifies to recognition of the Christ in you.”

“Ah ne’er so dire a Thirst of Glory boast,
nor in the Critick let the Man be lost!
Good-Nature and Good-Sense must ever join;
To err is Human; to Forgive, Divine.

(Alexander Pope, “An Essay on Criticism, Part II, 1711)

Of this—forgiveness—is what I am and will be grateful for as the upcoming Holy Days commence.  Thanks be to God.