Seeing in the Dark

St Peter'S Basilica, Vatican, Catholic, Church, FaithIt has been almost three months for me that it has been dark. Not just dim or lights out, but an all-consuming darkness. I have asked God to lift it, take it away, but the shadows have endured. I can see the sun outside, but on the inside there is no light.

In the midst of all of this, God asked me to make some of the biggest decisions I have ever made in my life. Actually, He didn’t ask me, He told me. It wasn’t in the usual way He spoke to me either. It was soft, subtle, barely a whisper, so much so that I felt myself putting my spiritual ears to the wall saying, God I can barely hear you!

I chased after the whispers like a wild, hungry animal desperate for food, but the whispers only became softer. The prayers I was praying were not in desperation but were now in full belief that God would answer, even when the timing seemed way off. But God said He would, and He did, and now I just want to run away…

The darkness has not lifted, the enemy is fierce. As my soul lifts up and magnifies the Lord, the devil denies Him and his plans for me. Not that I believe him. But Like Job, my spiritual outsides seem to be collapsing, even though I know they are not. When the walls come tumbling down, where then  do you run?

It was in my prayers this morning after Morning Lauds that the sky started to open. It is amazing what singing God’s praises can do for your spiritual life, even when you don’t feel like doing it. But today was different. Today I felt a glimpse of joy return to me, call my name, beckoning, we are almost there. It was that small slither of hope that I hung onto like a precious medallion from God, an inch of rope, an anchor. And I followed that into my prayer closet and in praying this prayer: Why now God? Why now in the midst of all of this are you answering this big prayer of mine? I sat back and closed my eyes, soaking in the warmth of the silence, a gift. And He said back to me with a smile on His face, “Yes the timing is very important. What day is it today on the Jewish calendar. This is your answer.”

With the Holy Spirit still vibrant and burning within me, I quickly rushed to check today’s calendar in Israel. It is the 17th day of Tammuz, a dark month for the Jews, a reminder of their unbelief.

Tammuz was supposed to be a time of blessing for the Jewish people. Moses had received the 10 commandments and was ready to bring it to God’s people. But when He was delayed (of course divinely so), the Israelites were inpatient and their unbelief became prominent. Instead of waiting, they decided to make for themselves a golden calf. And we know the rest of the story, the tablets that God had given us were broken and destroyed and we missed this divine miracle. It was a short delay that Moses had in coming down the mountain, but it was enough to turn the Jewish people to worship a man-made idol. It was enough to turn them away from God.

So the month of Tammuz is known for our fall. It exposes our sin and our falling away from God. But it also provides for us great insight into how we can repent, especially in the midst of darkness.

Today, the 17th of Tammuz marks the beginning of the “Three weeks of sorrow.” Today also is a day of fasting, to instill a sense of repentance in God’s people; to remember the darkness, the tragedy, the idolatry- to instill in us a time of reflection. As Christians, we refer to this spiritual exercise as an examination of conscience, something we should strive to accomplish daily. A time to repent, to ask God to help us in the areas we need help, a daily spiritual housecleaning, a learning to see in the dark.

God’s answer to me was this, How can I be glorified if you do not learn to see me in the dark? If you don’t repent of your unbelief and glorify me in this very time, how will you lead others to me? It is easy to see me in the light, but in the darkness requires a special kind of faith. It requires you to believe me.

So I say to you my brothers and sisters, let us repent of our unbelief for the world is a liar! We have the hope of Christ within us, yearning to be set free! Do not believe the lies of the darkness but instead lift up your hands in glory to our King! Christ has risen my friends, we are free! I pray that you will open your eyes and come out of your slumber and see Him in the darkness. This of course requires you to believe Him.

 

Are you following Jesus?

“Therefore choose life, so that both you and your offspring may live, and so that you may love the Lord your God, and obey his voice, and cling to him (for he is your life and the length of your days)…”

Deuteronomy 30:19(b)-20(a) CPDV

“It is good to hope in silence for the Lord’s deliverance.” Lamentations 3:26 (NAB Revised Edition)

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord…

It is painful to find your life apart from the world. To be torn from the only life you know, the only way you know. We spend our lives searching for the truth and our purpose in this world. And for those of us that have found our way to Jesus, that truth is often times harsh. For in Him we find life. But He tells us as we make our way to him, “You’ve found me, now deny yourself and don’t look back. Come follow me and leave it all behind.”

And life as a Christian if you’re living it the Jesus way (not the world’s way or your church’s way) is not easy. At times you may find yourself asking, “Why am I doing this? Why am I walking this way?”  But the further you walk the more you come to realize that the world is simply desolate. The more you hear what Jesus has to say, the less the world satisfies you. The more you retreat inward, the more you see your neighbor through the eyes of a loving God. The more they hate you, the more you love them. The more despair around you, the more you frequent prayer. Your life, to most, does not make any sense, even to other Christians. And the more I’ve walked with Jesus, the more people do not understand me. But I don’t need them to understand me, I just need them to see that I am living in the way Jesus has taught me.

As we retreat inward in prayer, oftentimes it is our silence that makes for the greatest witness. Why has she gotten quiet? Why is she so deeply devout? What is it that’s different about her? I realize that at all times, it is my life that serves as a witness. I am the candle, and Jesus, He is the flame.

I choose not to post or write about my political affiliations or stances on the issues of the day. I give my opinion when asked, but do not offer it at will. I choose not to alienate people from the love of God. And although yes the gospel is offensive, I am the one who should be offended, I am the Christian, I am the one who should be living in this way. This is about me, my faith, my life, my witness, my love. I know now that turning inward makes for an outward Christian.

And I am not worrying anymore about other Christians, what they say or what they do. I know who I am, and I know where God has called me. I am learning to stay in my space and stop interfering with the work that God is doing in others. I am learning not to be offended. I am learning to shut my mouth. I am learning the gift of silence.

As I change and grow in Him, I pray that you may learn something too. Your words or posts may be alienating people from God. You may be turning outward, rather than inward. You may be pointing someone to darkness rather than light, even other Christians.

I pray that today you will meditate on the scriptures God has given us that I’ve listed above. The themes of being “in” Him, choosing life “in” Him and this idea of prayerful silence. I imagine you may find what I did, a long conversation with God, a refining of the flesh and a fresh perspective on your Christian life. There is so much to just being “in” Him. Let us choose Him this day and let Him lead, and let us reflect on which way we shall walk.

You can learn more about me and my journey as a Jewish follower of Christ and Catholic at There’s Something about Mary.

Christmas Sucks

“But to those who did accept him
he gave power to become children of God,
to those who believe in his name,
who were born not by natural generation
nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision
but of God.”

The Gospel according to John

I got half a mind to scream out loud, I got have half a mind to die-

David Gray

I’ve read the Christmas posts, seen the reindeer pajamas, laughed at myself, then cried. I have always struggled with Christmas, especially as a Jewish person finding her way as a Christian in the world of reds and greens, happy Santas and nativity sets. I have struggled to understand why Christmas lights make Christians so mad, or why they are so upset about Santa. I have never understood in all the years I’ve been a Christian why I don’t feel the Christmas joy at all…

I have struggled with my expectations of Christmas, as I am sure many of you have. Some of us have lost loved ones and traditions are just not the same without them. Or maybe you’re working. Or maybe like me you’re some sort of convert (aren’t we all though?) fumbling their way through the Christmas festivities.

I decorated, bought the gifts, lit advent candles, went to mass as per our usual routine. I tried to anticipate, to see what everyone else was “seeing.” I read the posts about cancelling Christmas for kids who are bad, the posts that talk about Christmas as a pagan holiday, or Christmas trees that are just from the devil. I have read about the uproar of plain red Starbucks cups and C&E Christians and from people who are not Christians at all. For all that I’ve read and all that I’ve seen, (including the perfect family Christmas pictures replete with elves and bells and matching pajamas) I have to say I am completely unimpressed. I’m not the grinch, I’m just a girl who’s looking for the real Christmas.

My kids, they have been fighting for days. Mass, it was filled with standing room only (no strike that, no room at all). I have no family that celebrates Christmas, not one. I sat alone with my husband last night, two Jews eating a Christmas ham and casserole, kids crying upstairs on Christmas Eve, sans Christmas music.

I cried because I tried to plan the perfect Christmas. I tried to decorate the only way a little Jewish girl knows how. I bought the gifts, not many, but ones I knew the kids would enjoy. I filled the house with candles, an advent wreath and sugar cookies in the refrigerator. I got them each those ridiculous looking Christmas pajamas, as I do every year, threw reindeer bells in the backyard. They still fought and hated each other. I was still sitting in my dress from mass, no shoes, tired eyes. 

I imagine many people feel the same way as me in some way, shape or fashion. It’s cliche to comeback and say Christmas is about Jesus so get rid of everything else and send your kids to go do a service project in Africa. My kids are little. I have three of them. I gave up all of my possessions, sold them all, and followed God’s leading to a small house away from where we were. Then I got rid of more extras.

I give money away when I feel prompted; the way I see it it’s just paper with a bunch of dead presidents. I visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament every Wednesday. I pray constantly, and then some more. I make my kids go to mass, AND listen (or at least try). I wear a veil because God called me to. My kids still fight and hate each other, and then love each other and then punch each other in the face. They still believe in Santa Claus. They still can’t quite understand why the rest of the world doesn’t believe in Jesus.

It took me awhile after crying, stuffing my face with the kosherest of hams, having a screamd-filled dinner, an overpacked mass, ungrateful kids (because that’s just kids), more screaming, sitting here while my kids are each in their rooms having their own little Christmas, that life doesn’t stop for our expectations. That Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. That although we celebrate his birth, I celebrate it everyday. That today is special yes, but not more special than the day he found me, then the moment I knew my husband found him, when He saved our marriage, or the moment I realized His calling me home to the Catholic church was the moment I had been waiting for but just didn’t know it. I thought of all those moments, and more, and realized for me I can’t glorify this day above all days, expecting that the day will be filled with perfect Jesus moments and kids who just can’t understand quite yet that the reason their family is together is because of that little baby.

He is an innocent baby, a youth, a rabbi, a  grown man, a mystery. And He exists everyday for me, just as important as the next. On the days I don’t have perfect expectations for myself or my kids, it seems to work out, I just have to let Him in.

So I’ve decided that today is like every other day. The kids will be fighting, ungrateful and well, just being kids. My husband and I will try for the millionth time to understand why every holiday sucks. We’ll threaten to take away presents and try to “cancel” Christmas. The kids will spend some time in their rooms. I’ll read the scripture of the day and pray and thank God that in all my chaos my family is together. And I’ll let my expectations float away with my grief over my unperfect day.

And I hope you will too…

You can read more about Mary at There’s Something about Mary

 

Rethinking Conspiracy Theories

RejectStamp

Have we become a society of judgment and rejection? Do we enjoy seeing others on the chopping block of elimination or exclusion? Do we thrill at the prospect of someone being delivered the harsh reality of an extinguished torch?

Are we now translating that recreational tour de force into real world execution through wholesale rejection of anyone who wants to cross our borders because “they” might be terrorists?

“Do not say, ‘Conspiracy,’ every time these people say the word. Don’t be afraid of what scares them; don’t be terrified. You must recognize the authority of the Lord who commands armies. He is the one you must respect; He is the one you must fear.” Isaiah 8:12-13

When will we learn from our own history?

During WWII, we rejected Jewish emigrants escaping the Nazi holocaust while placing our own citizens of Japanese descent in “internment” camps, incarcerating them for up to four years and destroying their lives in the process.

World War II prompted the largest displacement of human beings the world has ever seen—although today’s refugee crisis is starting to approach its unprecedented scale. But even with millions of European Jews displaced from their homes, the United States had a poor track record offering asylum. Most notoriously, in June 1939, the German ocean liner St. Louis and its 937 passengers, almost all Jewish, were turned away from the port of Miami, forcing the ship to return to Europe; more than a quarter died in the Holocaust…Government officials argued that refugees posed a serious threat to national security. Yet today, historians believe the concern about refugee spies was blown far out of proportion. Daniel A. Gross, Smithsonian.com, November 18, 2015 (emphasis mine).

As Christians, we can use all the excuses and rationalizations we want: There simply is no justification for refusing emigrants fleeing for their lives. None. Yet we continue to repeat our mistakes and shake our fist at God, insisting we know better.

Leviticus 19:33-34 “Do not take advantage of foreigners who live among you in your land.  Treat them like native-born, and love them as you love yourself. Remember that you were once foreigners living in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”

Leviticus 24:22 “The same rule applies to every one of you. It makes no difference whether you are a foreigner or a native. I am the Lord your God.”

Malachi 3:5 “I will come to you in judgment. I will be quick to testify against those who … exploit workers, widows, and orphans, who refuse to help the immigrant and in this way show they do not respect me,” says the Lord who rules over all.”

Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female—for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.

John 3:16-17  For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world should be saved through him.

If Jesus did not come to condemn us, why is it we take liberties to condemn one another? Why do we suppose we are greater than Him, and usurp God’s power and authority to judge, exclude and condemn?

©oneindia.com
©oneindia.com

When we automatically label an entire group of people potential terrorists, we place a wall in front of them. Just as females are not given an opportunity for an education in a country run by a Taliban regime, immigrants who Westerners reject out of hand as “possible terrorists” are not given an opportunity for survival, education or an inroad to the heart of our God.

 

We must rethink our approach to this before our own history repeats itself. We must take a stand. We must either follow Caesar, follow the Pharisees, or follow Jesus.

Who will you follow?