Be Happy, God will understand

I recently listened to an interview I found by happenstance of an old acquaintance.  I had always admired her brilliance and tenacity, her quiet way and her commitment to her religion. I don’t think it is important for purposes of this story to tell you what religion she is, it is enough to know that she was devout and humble all at the same time. 

I don’t know what made me think of her, but I was curious to see what she was up to. Last I had seen, she had the perfect career and perfect life, still devout and lovely. But this interview was different. It was many years later and life was not so perfect. Her religion had not changed , but her life had. So she was quick to meld her words to fit her life’s circumstances. My God would understand this, and He would understand that. I have to make myself happy and I cannot worry about what other people think. I was perplexed. Her God had remained the same, her devotion the same, but her life had not. So she fit her God into her life’s circumstances to ascribe to a “Be Happy God will understand” theory which completely blew my mind.

These thoughts were not unlike so many I have heard and areas which Paul has recently explored on Just Me Being Curious where he discusses openly the hypocritical Christian and their unconscious quest to use the bible as a weapon. Paul goes into an in-depth discussion of whether the bible is fiction and other deep-rooted and tough questions, but the message is deeper than that. While my old acquaintance sings a song of “Be Happy God will understand” the song that Paul’s talking about is more along the lines of “The only way to believe is the way I do.” Both schools of thought though steeped in religion are cloaked in secularism. Twisting our way into what “we” believe is right or wrong based on our own selfish notions. What bothered me about the interview was not the fact that she was still devout to her God. What bothered me was that she had made God devout to her.

This is a continued thought in our culture, in our world, where we make God just ours. The bible or Quran or Torah can have only that person’s interpretations, and there is no other room. It is this way or that, no room for exploration or understanding. It is the reason that modern-day religion is more secular than it is anything else.

I look to those who have criticized Mother Teresa’s care for the dying. She a Catholic, speaking to them and praying with them in their own religion, their familiar God. Restoring their dignity in the last breath with a comfort each individual will understand. She has played a great role for me in understanding the human person and Jesus, and the dynamic that exists between the two.

You see if we were really Christians, people would know. We wouldn’t make God live in a bible, or on an altar, or in a Sunday sermon, we would let Him live in us. It’s not a matter of conversion, it is a matter of being. I don’t seek to convert anyone other than myself to be the love that Jesus is or was. I don’t subscribe to the “Be happy God will understand theory” because taken in context that is a selfish way to be. The only way for me to live is ensuring that I am doing my best to invest my happiness in you. More like, “Be happy, invest that happiness, because I acknowledge Lord that it comes from you.”

When we get outside of ourselves and realize that God is much bigger than a t-shirt or a slogan, the real work begins. Because if we’ve discovered that life is not about our own self-satisfaction but rather attending to the needs of someone who will never be able to repay us, following Jesus gets real.

If you ask me if I’m a hypocrite I’ll tell you yes, that I am working on it. If you ask me if I’ll convert you, I’ll tell you I’m too busy working on myself. If you want me to show you God, I’ll try my best. But it will probably involve a cup of coffee, admitting who and what I am and asking for your forgiveness.

You’ve Got A Friend

One of the beauties of humanity is when you find people of like mindedness. Kindred Spirits. Someone who thinks similar to you and even understands what you just told them.

For me that seems few and far between. But when I find one it is like a bowl full of gems and jewels and chocolate!

The church we attend has a Wednesday night meeting. I do not always go to the midweek meeting but the last three weeks they have invited three different young adults from a college in the Kansas City area. These kids (I call them) get the opportunity to share what they are learning and going through with the intent of helping others. Youth. So refreshing.

Last night a young man walked up to my husband and I and introduced himself as the guest speaker for the evening. He proceeded to say that he likes to get to know his audience by asking what it is they have been going through lately. Well, having just posted my last blog about the seasons of my life I jumped right in and talked about that. Bam! He totally understood what I was talking about.

Don’t you just love it when you find someone who gets you? It is so important. We all have friends and acquaintances of different degrees. It is important we know that. Some are friends and the relationship may be more one sided. Those are good. Some, well, some are just “hey, how ya doin'” kind of relationship and you keep on walking. That’s ok too.

I’m not saying that this young man is now my deepest friend. I may never see him again. What I am saying is that we all need someone or a few someone’s we can rely on. The someones that don’t question your every look or move. The someones that have your back. The someones that hand over their back to you. The trust that no matter what you go through or how you go through it they will not judge or walk away, even if they don’t understand totally. The love.

As Christians we need to stand with others. We cannot do this life alone. We not only have the power of God within and without but we have others that need us and us them.

Recently, my husband and I saw the need for others to come alongside and hold us up through changes in our life. It’s all good things. He travels from time to time and I cannot always go along. We needed prayer support and friend support while he goes and I stay or when we both go.

So. We formed “Our Posse”. A group of friends of like heartedness and like mindedness. A group of loving and caring friends from quite the variety of life. A Motley Crew. We send out group messages when we have upcoming things we may need wisdom about and they pray. What a difference our life has become. We feel so much lighter. So less burdened.

I recommend this for everyone. It is not good for man to live alone. We were born for relationship. First one with God and then others.

I had a call from a friend of twenty plus years. We use to take nature walks or just gab over coffee and tea. Instant friends. Now she lives in Puerto Rico. But we are still strong together and always will be. It’s as if we never parted geographically.

Don’t stand alone, Dear Reader. There are people out there for your back. Even this blogging community has someone or someones for you to connect with.

Enjoy!

Cate B

Simple Christianity: Being our Most Authentic Selves

“This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking every yoke;
Sharing your bread with the hungry,
sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;
Clothing the naked when you see them,
and not turning your back on your own.”

Isaiah 59:6-7

“Fasting is not genuine without reforming one’s way of life.” Note on Isaiah 58: 6-12, from the NAB Bible revised edition

I have found power in fasting. Giving up sustenance to hear God clearer. Helping me to become a better version of myself- in Christ. This Lent, the Lord has whispered to me about silence. So on the Holy Spirit’s nudging I have given up music. This has proved to be an extremely difficult, but needed abstinence for me.

You don’t have to be a Christian to fast and hear God. For those of you that are on your journey, I highly recommend it. But fasting is not a diet nor is it a New Year’s Resolution. No, fasting is so much more than that…

Recently, I have had the occasion to read a broad range of spiritual books. They all have contributed to my life’s journey, tossing me little pebbles along the way. But what I have found is that although many of the books I have read are fascinating, they are also complicated and verbose, and for those of you that know me I am complicated enough as it is…

I am finding that books that require me to carry a dictionary around are just not my thing. I am also noticing my lack of motivation in reading some recent books that I’ve acquired. So many over-philosophical thoughts on Jesus, rote prayer and too much concentration on the bad, and not the good. Many of the first halves of these books start out promising but half way through they fail me. I’ve held onto them because I am a firm believer in finishing what you start, but in the silence that God has provided me, I am seeing that is not the case.

When things are quiet, you can hear. “Not this way, not that way,” says the still small voice. Or louder yet, “Wrong way!” When we are open, when we have our minds set on things above, when we use these forty days to focus on ourselves and the God we serve, it is amazing what we can hear, in silence.

And God tells us what kinds of things He wants from us, if we are listening. We are not here to simply go through the motions- that is religion, not relationship.

We must find the thing that God is calling us to do this Lenten season. What is He calling us to give up? This answer should be simple and transformative, it does not need a theological dissertation. 

Through genuine fasting, we come to understand the meaning of sacrifice and of blessing. Yes tradition is beautiful and needed, but it means nothing if we are not committed to hearing God’s call…

This Lent, be committed to the simplicity of sacrifice, whatever that may be individually for each of you. Share it with a friend so that they can keep you accountable to the promise you have made to God. And as you repent and reform from the inside out this Lenten season, you will see God’s hand bolder and greater in your life than ever before!

Blessings-

Join Mary on her Lenten Journey at There’s Something About Mary

by Rebecca Ann

To all of my beautiful friends and family- I am asking your prayers for my dear blogging friend Martin whose sweet Rebecca Ann passed away on November 4, 2015. I hadn’t caught up with Martin for awhile until Rebecca Ann’s post showed up again on my feed. My heart is that we will come together as a community for Martin. You can comment on other posts from Rebecca Ann’s blog as I believe comments are already disabled on this post. Martin, we love you and are all here to pray for you and encourage you.

I don’t care how you get here, just get here if you can

(Listen while you read)

I am an outcast. I am not like anyone else. I am not accepted in so many places.

I am different and misunderstood and at times challenged.

I have gone against the grain, I have traveled, I have journeyed, I have cried.

I have lost the person I loved the most.

I have lost many, many friends along the way.

I have walked down long winding pathways and through valleys and up and down the tallest of mountains.

I have followed a God I cannot see.

I have continued to follow Him, giving up everything for Him, understood or not.

And the longer I walk, I run, I climb, I pant, I chase after this God I cannot see.

But the longer I chase, the clearer I see, the more I need Him, the more I understand why I was even born.

And I’d walk it all again, get spat at again, lose every friend I ever had just to be in His loving arms.

In the depth of my soul He is more real than any tangible item I have ever touched, His peace the blanket of my soul.

And I can get to him anyway, anytime, anywhere. Eyes closed, open, tearful, mad, cursing Him, loving Him, He’ll never leave.

He is the King of my people, the human race. And I’ll love you and forgive you and show you mercy because it feels good, it feels right to extend the same hand that was extended to me.

And I am ok with all of it. I accept all of it. I take all of it. And so does He.

And my greatest hope is that I’ll get a chance to say I’m sorry to you, to love you the way God loves you, to always have an open hand, an open heart, and to pour out His mercy all over you.

God, the Lord of the Universe, the great I AM. I will follow you on this earth until you call me home, whenever that glorious day is. And I’m scared to die. But I am more scared to know any life without you.

Let my feet keep walking, let my arms stay open, let my tears flow. And let me keep walking in your great and mighty name, in your power and in the hope of the resurrection.

I’m still walking…

Mary

Silent Witness

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Take me with you wherever you go. Listen to my Word. It is mightier than a two-edged sword and cuts to the heart of men.- Holy Spirit

This is the statue I have at the very front of my desk. I won’t tell you where or which desk but a desk. It was given to me by a friend who said that it reminded him of me, and that it would do much better in my hands than tucked away in a box covered in dust. It was a humble expression of our friendship, but an even greater gift for display. In the beginning I thought it a nice reminder for me of my role as a servant, to God and to others. But I never anticipated it as a silent witness.

Out of the corner of their eye I see people glance at it. It must be odd for someone who doesn’t know Jesus to see a statue of a man washing the feet of another. The inscription must be even more perplexing:

“Jesus said, if anyone wants to  be first, he must be the very last , and the servant of all. “Mark 9:35

I’ve never heard anyone remark about. It doesn’t make a political statement, tell people what I believe theologically or cause any kind of controversy. It sits quite dusty at times, but always there. Many times I forget its there. But it’s times like today I know it is there for a reason.

The servanthood of Jesus is enough to make you reflect for several lifetimes. It is enough to make you want to treat people kinder, listen a little more and to improve your own being. It is iconic in that it depicts God at someone’s feet to make a valiant message. It is enough to bring comfort in knowing that is my Jesus, the one I try to reflect everyday.

We are what we surround ourselves with. Our words are biting and cruel. There is no time in the bible when Jesus met someone other than exactly where they were at. So why do we insist on displaying God in any other way?

Your posts on your “Christian” lifestyle are cruel. They are on display. It is not enough to be a one size fits all. We are individuals, called by name, made in the image of God. All human beings deserve the right to their own journey and search for truth. Who are we to take God’s place?

So remember the image and ask yourself if that is the one you are reflecting. Yes, take the time to look around you. You may find that your Jesus is not so Jesus after all…

Reflections on birth

Several years ago, I had a life-changing conversation with a person I cared deeply about. We lived such similar lives and had finally escaped- daring, desperate to a secluded part of nowhere. I didn’t care who saw me, but I did, so I sat quiet, staring out at the ocean and hoping at some point he had something to say other than nothing.

We were awkward, but the same. Ripped up on the inside. He at least knew who Jesus was, but he didn’t at all. I was small, far away from religion, closer to living it up on my terms, but my terms were wearing thin. The sand was still there, but my mind was somewhere at the shore.

The conversation was not so much unexpected, but a moment in time that became defining for me.

“Don’t you want to be more than this, don’t you want to run and be what you wanted to be, not what everyone else wanted you to be?”

“I’ve thought about it,” He said as he gazed over the top of the ocean. He was sitting so close to me, but was so far away. It was if his thoughts were falling out of the side of his head.

“You can. You can do whatever you want. We are free you know, it’s not too late,” I said half believing myself.

He was still gazing out at the ocean, hadn’t moved. Silent. “No, it’s too late. It’s too late for that.”

He like many had gotten washed away in the world. He might as well have thrown himself in the ocean. His words were sad and didn’t impress me. He didn’t impress me. We were two sad people. In the midst of transition, both him and me, I knew he’d choose the path that the world, his parents, everyone else had placed before him, despite the opportunity to leave it all behind and go find what he truly wanted.

A paddleboard, solitude and a long, long book. He was so broken, and so was I.

I didn’t want to be that sad. I didn’t want to end up in the same sad dream. I didn’t want to end up in one of those top of the rung positions. I didn’t want to end up like Him and where He was about to go.

He went on to become the head of a large agency, that was his top-their dream. His life fell apart, in every sense- from work to family. Yet he, still in the midst of that ocean, chose to drown, chose himself. His beginning became his end.

I went on to find God.