A safe place called Love

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There is sometimes a lot of noise on these blogs.  Believers are always under attack from unbelievers. The ones who really attack are called atheists.  Angry atheists. Savage atheists.  Ones that are abusive and rude.  Who attack the One believers love.  And there is a line in the bible that gets used as the reason for “attacking back”:

A den of vipers.

Jesus said those four words – and Jesus is THE role model!  So what happens?  Believers become snake killers.  Believers enter the den to confront the vipers – to “call them out” (whatever that means).

Jesus said lots of things if I read my bible correctly.  But more than the saying was the healing.  Was the meeting each where they were right then.  Accepting that I am me and I will be whatever I choose to be, I will believe whatever I choose to believe.  And he invited those who were curious.  There were so many who were not “vipers”.  And even for those who were not interested he said something: “Shake the dust from you sandals and move on.”

And he connected me with one of those vipers this morning.

Author of Confusion, Vi Rose La Bianca.  A quiet viper.  A thoughtful viper.  A kind viper.  A viper not a viper at all.

Just another you or me.  A human being.  One of us.  Because we are all human beings.  Another human being who had no choice in whether or not she got God as a child.  Just as so many human beings as children get no choice in the God or no-God they get given.  And then spend an adulthood reclaiming themselves.  It’s called free-will – the choice to choose. It’s called living – it’s called, I think, finding a safe place called Love.

I am tired of the noise.  I am tired with the having to be right or having to defend why I am NOT wrong.  I am tired of being a human being who has to be a certain type of human being.  A human being who believes right for some and, therefore, believes wrong for others.  I am tired of being asked what I believe so I can be judged as this or that.

So he connected me with one of those vipers this morning.

Vi Rose La Bianca may not agree with that statement.  And that is okay.  Because reading her words I feel a peace.  I feel a space of peace and quiet.  I feel no need to defend myself.  I feel no need to convince her she is wrong.  I feel no need to do anything more than enjoy the stillness and quiet.

But I do feel the desire to share her words with you.  To invite you see another human being just like you and me – and you over there.

I think this “viper” is one of us.  A human being just like me.  I think we are all one of us.  And I am tired of being told I cannot be one of us.  That I must be one of you.  One of them.  One of “something” in which Love is in short supply and “being right” is the only currency worth having.

So over to you.  You have the link.

Me … ?  I found peace and quiet as I strolled slowly through her posts.  And it changed my beliefs not one bit.  That is what I call a “safe place”.  And that is all I seek.

I think it is all any of us seek.

Isn’t it?

Paul

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Psalm 139, What do I have to offer God?

I have lived my life in a great struggle against something I cannot see. It has been a burden to me since I was a little girl, a dark monster, an unforeseen force that haunted my days. I could never readily identify it, associated it mostly with some tragic experiences I had in my life. But even after I finished recovery for my sexual abuse, there were some things that simply lingered…

Becoming a Catholic became the single greatest event of my life. It was a true conversion of mind, body and soul, a true understanding of obedience and sacrifice, and a coming home party as big and as wide and as deep as heaven could offer. It was immediately apparent to me that it was the right decision, as “Christian” friends left my life and disappeared…

I’ve never been one to hold myself out as a theologian, that’s never been my purpose. God has plans and purposes for everything, and our calls and individual walks are as personal as the maker has made us. When I became a Catholic, I thought my days of darkness may be far behind me, but I did not recognize them for what they were…

As I often do, I began to scroll through my new favorite app “Flipboard” which I have found to be a great mix of so many of the topics I enjoy. If you haven’t used it, it’s like the tabernacle opening for information junkies, news aggregated in one place, and the ability to receive information based upon your specified areas of interest.

So I happen upon a story of a man whose greatest fear was death, so as he explains it, makes himself busy to distract himself from the thought of it, although this was not a conscious fear. He began to understand this fear after meeting with a “life” coach as he recounted the busyness of his lifestyle, his hyper competitiveness and his drive to “squeeze” in as much as possible in one day. After coming to the realization of this fear, he began reading numerous books related to people who lived life to its fullest on finding out they were terminally ill. This in turn led him to face his fear and realize that he needed to do something about it. Once he identified the monster, he was set free…

The story intrigued me in a unique way, I didn’t understand at the time why. He had related to Buddhist theories, hired a life coach and fear of death was not my problem. But as the story stirred in my soul, it was making its mark. What was I afraid of? What was my monster?

It was a verse in Sirach this morning that drew my attention, although I had no idea why.

Do not appear before the Lord empty handed, for all that you offer is in fulfillment of the precepts. Sirach 35:6

The question that came to mind after reading that passage was,

What do I have to offer God?

I meditated on it, researched it and could not get away from it. But it had a familiar darkness, a familiar fear. The question and the passage scared me. 

And in the midst of my ruminations and emptiness before the Lord, I asked Him that same question. And then the story of the man who was scared of death entered my mind. And that’s when I realized who and what my monster was.

I was deathly afraid I had no purpose…I had met my monster.

The thing that had haunted me, even chased me, the thing I just could not shake. The reason behind my faltering and depression. I wasn’t afraid to die, I was afraid to die without having a purpose. 

There was no human force who could have told me that, no sermon, no book. It was a cry from so deep inside my soul that I could not contain it. The hurt, the anguish of knowing that I had or maybe never would make a deep and lasting impression on this earth.

I didn’t consider the thousands of cases I handled on behalf of foster kids or indigent defendants or even my work as a police attorney. I didn’t consider the love I had for the homeless or the prostitute. It just wasn’t enough of a mark for me. And I paused to consider that although I know my purpose in Jesus, I still felt an overwhelming sense that I had not come into what God had for me, or maybe He had nothing at all…

I am sure that many of you will comment about how our purpose is in Jesus and that my wanting “more” and fearing there may be none is a sign that I don’t understand my purpose. I have read and considered all of the scriptures and have lived and continued to live a Christian life. I don’t believe this is a lack of trust in Jesus, it is a fear I have to face that I believe many of you have but have not yet identified.

I am not talking about being a missionary or call to the priesthood or some other very distinctive call. I am talking about a knowing that God has a specific place and purpose for your life that you know you have just not come into yet. I have been on the search all my life, I continue to be a pilgrim waiting for my Master…

Identifying the fear made my heart feel in a way that I never had before. Like slaughtering the beast, I understood David’s victory against Goliath. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. PRESENT darkness…

I pray that in identifying the fear, God will reassure me that He has a purpose for me. That at some stage in my life I am blessed to enter it and know that the struggle was not some figment of my imagination, but a very real one in the unseen spiritual realm. And I hope for the sake of this truth that has been exposed, that my experience and honesty can help someone overcome their fear too. That God made us for a purpose, that we are loved and that He will not let us leave this world without allowing us to leave our mark on it, for Him.

Psalm 139

I have tried but I don’t fit

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Politics, religion and money- the three things we are expressly told not to talk about. I talk about all three, all the time. I have had this blog for some time now and it has been the bane of my existence. I’ve begged God to make me more normal in some way, that I could ride off into the sunset in my little Jewish world and forget all this putting myself out there stuff. Until I realize that I have been putting myself out there way before Jesus came on the scene. Like the first time I almost went to jail for defending my client’s right to a hearing. My boss at the time gave me the best advice I’ve ever gotten in my whole career that I have lived and died by. With my tear-stained face he took a hold of me and said, “Melissa, if you are not pissing someone off, you are not doing your job.” I dried my eyes and went back to court ready to go to jail if I had to. Needless to say, I didn’t end up in the clank that night.

I must admit  how apprehensive I have been in so many ways to voice my inner Jesus. It is quite unpopular as many of my views often are. I always seem to find myself on the other end of the argument. A team of angry ones over there and me over here. But I’ve never left the truth. I’ve stood by it, always. And now I know that truth is Jesus.

Recently, God has called me to higher places, to run with horses, to reach farther in my walk of faith than I ever have before. He’s let me play nice for a while, placate people, walk the line. I know I’ve been teetering. The Catholic thing I know got many people who know me or read me off course. People were shocked. I wasn’t. My road has always taken me places that were never in the cards. Well, at least not the cards I had in my hands.

I’ve been successful in keeping my two worlds somewhat separate. It was o.k to be like that, to be me in my secular life, but not in my Christian life. But those two lives were slowly merging. Ok, they were crashing. God warned me, and Kim Davis took the first hit.

I know some of what I write puzzles some of you who are Christians, maybe it bothers you. In my life and in my walk my intention is never to bother anyone. My intention is to tell the truth as I see it, and respect and know that I will have opposition. I experience it everyday in my “real” life. But as the sign on my desk reads, Footprints in history aren’t made sitting down.”

So my secular life, the blog, my walk, my freelancing is all coming to a crashing, mangled, uncomfortable head. This is who God made me. I want to sit in the corner and cry over it, why can’t I just be somewhere in the background? Hey God, why not that stay at home mom thing you and I talked about it? The more I pray for some sort of normalcy, the more he pushes me from behind into an endless ocean. To give Him some credit He warned me, and I told Him I’d rather jump willingly. But I needed a little nudge, and I got it, so here I am.

The two lives I have cannot just co-exist they must co-mingle. That whole separate but equal thing is a lie from the pit of hell. We have to be who we are 100% of the time, and if I can’t be me than I can’t be a follower of Jesus, because to follow Him means to walk in truth twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. I’m sick of being afraid of what people, especially Christians think of me. We as a group don’t know how to get along or how to fight fair, and we certainly don’t know how to disagree. When I read something someone else wrote that bothers me, the first thing I think is, well why is that? Usually it has something to do with me, though I don’t of course want to admit that. But as Christians, haven’t we learned by now that it is always about us? 

It is painfully tiring to be someone else, so I’m just going to be me, I have no choice. If I’m not obedient, than I’m not all in. And two years ago I told Him I’d be all in. I told Him if He saved me, I’d serve Him for the rest of my life , and I meant it. And He saved me, He saved my whole life, every part of it. I am alive because of Him, so I owe Him everything, and He’s the only one I have to please.

I hope for those of you out there, whatever you call yourselves, atheist, Christian whatever you are, you stay on the path to find the truth. Be yourself always. People don’t like what you have to say, so what, love them anyway, that’s what Mother Teresa did. It never bothered her, even when people spit in her face. I am far from Mother Teresa, but I’d like to be just like her. I hope if you spit in my face, I can get on my knees and pray for you, right in front of you, or maybe just give you a hug. That is the essence of my savior. And oh, He is the essence of who I want to be.

We don’t need to pretend to be someone we are not or say we’ll pray for someone when we don’t feel moved to do that. We have to live an honest, pure and truthful life, guided by the Holy Spirit and all that God is. How ever will people see God if we are anything else?

I imagine myself sometimes quiet, walking away from everything, living my little life with my little family, punching a clock from 7-3 and doing it again the next day. For some, that’s quite alright. But for me, my insides were just not created like that- pre or post Christ. You may not understand me, but I wouldn’t necessarily expect you too. I’m not trying to be understood, I’m just living the way He’s told me to live. Out loud.

Pass this on to the one that’s struggling to just be themselves.

Why do we want to kill all the broken people?

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Sometimes the hard conversations are the ones that we need to have. We avoid them, run from them or sometimes completely ignore them. The longer I walk with Jesus, the more I realize that although he has changed my mind and my heart in drastic ways, I am still me. Although for a long time, I didn’t think it was o.k. to be me. Like today. Until I realized, I am exactly who he made me to be.

There are many people who have opinions on a variety of topics. Suffice it to say I wouldn’t go to a pediatrician to get an opinion on my criminal case. As smart as I am with the brains God has given me, I am smart enough to know I don’t know everything. But what I do know is the system, in all of its ebbs and flows, trials and tribulations, behind the scenes intensity and the story behind the story. I read a lot of commentary on the beast we call our court system. Most major news stories draw tons of commentary on the various opinions of the various people around the world. But if you don’t work there, if you’ve never been on the inside, it’s hard to offer anything but personal or emotion based commentary on the things you have no daily dealings with. I have seen it play out time and time again as I am in the middle of working on a case and am intimately familiar with the details, but the public who is not is able to formulate an opinion without knowing the whole story.

I mistakenly thought that when I came to Christ, everyone was a Christian. But I have found on my journey with Jesus that there are more atheists that are Christians than Christians. They may not know they are Christians, but many of them are. We are not living in the four corners and depths of their hearts. Sitting in a pew may make the seat warm, but most times, doesn’t do much more than that.

I am pushing against an uncomfortable current and God is calling me to do the things He has planned for me long ago in the way that I have been operating in the world for most, if not all of my adult life. Having the toughest cases, taking the most unpopular positions, fighting the big guy, calling out liars, defending the poor and the oppressed, standing up when others sit down, representing the people the public may hate the most. Nothing about that has changed. But to be a Christian and do those types of things is so much more difficult, to be judged by your own. Such a big part of me wants to walk away from this blog, and if it was mine, I would have. Who knows, maybe I will. But for now, in the midst of my discernment, I’ve decided to be me, well because He told me to. I find it monotonous to read pieces of people’s minds that seem regurgitated over and over again like a broken record. There are few people I admire in my line of work and fewer Christians than that. It’s not because they agree with me, in fact most of the time they do not. It’s because they stand their ground without getting emotional, they stand for something, and they can have a conversation about it without telling me they’re right. They don’t have to. I usually discover that through the way God uses them. 

So when I started to read the book, Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, the tears couldn’t come out of my eyes fast enough. It was a glimpse into my own feelings and struggles with the system, my current struggle to keep up with a system that devours most people and an honest look about fighting for something, that is so much bigger than you could ever be.

Bryan Stevenson is a young black Harvard law graduate who went on to found Equal Justice Initiative, a non-profit devoted to defending poor people on death row in the heart of Alabama. I saw Bryan’s professor Tony Campolo from Eastern Bible College speak at a local event I was writing for, and his story changed my life. Months later I ran head first into this book and remembered the story of a young black attorney from a small bible college who went on to Harvard law. But he didn’t choose to work for a posh firm in New York where he could have made millions. He chose to start his organization in Alabama, defending the most hated men on the planet, because he believed in God and he believed in mercy. People hated him for what he did but he did it anyway, and many innocent men were exonerated and their lives spared as a result of his selfless work.

A quote early on in the book caught my attention and has been sitting in the very pit of my stomach. Bryan’s grandmother told him, “You can’t understand most of the important things from a distance Bryan. You have to get close.” And that set the tone for the book, and for this stage of my life, where often I find myself closer than I ever would want to be.

The book quotes Thomas Merton as saying, “We are bodies of broken bones.” And Bryan asks a poignant and turning point question, “Why do we want to kill all the broken people?” It means more than it says if you take the time to read between the lines.

You need to get and read the book if you are on a search for truth, which is what the book is about. It will change you. It changed me. Bryan gives us so much to think about while showing mercy in a way that I have never seen captured before. He didn’t talk about being Christian in the book, except a few places here and there where he mentions growing up in church and speaking sometimes at churches, but he didn’t have to, Jesus was bleeding all over those pages. 

If we’re gonna be real out here, we need to be honest, and start having some honest dialogue. Maybe I’ll stay, maybe I’ll go. I’m gonna do Christianity the way Jesus is showing me, the only way I know how- real, honest and transparent, being refined in the fire, hurting along the way, but knowing there is someone out there who reads these words and knows they’ve found the truth.

I hope you’ll stay with me on this rocky leg of my journey, as I find myself in the uncharted waters in the boat Jesus is sleeping in. What’s the point of being out here if we’re not exposed? There’s room in the boat for you too if you’re willing to come with me, and maybe take some people with you that you’ve never thought of bringing before.

Till’ next time…