Is God in control?

This year, for those living in America, a new president was elected, it was not pretty. Both candidates drew such ire that many wished we could start from scratch, but such is not in the cards (or the law). Regardless of who was elected half the nation would be more than disappointed.

Since the results were announced there have been protests and riots. Cars set afire, businesses broken into, even a few law enforcement officers have been injured, all by people upset because their candidate did not win. This year it cannot even be contested in the courts as the margin was not close – 51 electoral votes separated the two candidates, far more than anyone anticipated, and in the opposite direction. Many of the protesters appear to be Christians, I say “appear” from their appeals to God, signs, and comments to the reporters, but are they? Or have they become so lost in the quagmire of their daily lives that they have lost sight of what is really important?

Jesus told us that one thing is important – to love the Father, and through that love to love each other, unquestioningly, and completely. To love even our enemy, and to show that love like a light on a stand, for all the world to see. He did not differentiate between ideological and physical enemies, but told us to love everyone because, as with the Samaritan, we do not know who is really a friend and who an enemy.

Jesus also did not get embroiled in the politics of the day, keeping his attention focused on what really matters in life – loving God, and helping others to see the light of God in everyone. We live in a unique time upon this earth and, if you are among the lucky, in a unique cultural environment. We have a voice in our leadership, that does not mean we always get the leadership we want, but we have the opportunity to help select that leadership. Also, our leaders are limited in what they can, and cannot, do. Sure, they can make life difficult for a while, but they cannot take your life away from you, and they can do nothing to harm your immortal soul. Jesus tells us not to worry about those who can do us harm, but to be concerned more about those who can harm our immortal soul.

What has happened here in America (to those whose candidate did not win) is not the end of life, not the end of your immortal soul. It is but a wink in the eye of time. It’s ramifications, passing. It’s effect on his plan, minor. Eight years ago the other half of the population decried the election, but the people survived, the nation survived. Four-eight years from now it will be the same. Our lives may, or may not, be disrupted, but our immortal souls will survive if we but love God and his children, no matter whom they may be.

God is in control.

No one shall appear before me empty handed

Jesus Christ, Rio Janeiro, Christ, StatueWe follow Jesus at a distance- following too close is costly. For everything that we are and everything that we strive to be still has some meaning in the world, as long as we let it. We can tell ourselves that one or two drinks will be o.k. but then we drink ourselves to excess. One night will not lead anywhere. God will rescue me. But if God is the rowboat, we are the oars, and some of us have forgotten how to paddle.

Jesus is not a lot of talk, he is a lot of silence. He does not babble on and on and write you excuses for what it is you want to do. He is a mystery in this world, completely not of it, and therefore not a partaker in its sin. 

We come empty-handed to God expecting magic tricks. If I pray enough, If I read enough scripture things will surely change for me. But the bible is not a wand and our words to heaven are not hocus pocus. Change from within is a slow process and we have to come with something, something to leave behind and sacrifice on His holy altar.

Nobody thinks much about sacrifice, it is counter-cultural. But Jesus is counter-cultural. If Jesus walks left, we should be walking right. The journey is dirty. It is too much to leave what we have and be with Him. We love our addiction more than we love Him. We are addicted to our own selves and the selfishness that it produces.

You don’t have to leave the world to follow Him, well not in a physical sense anyway. But yes you will have to leave the world. That includes your pride, your drugs, your definitions of what is acceptable behavior, your just this one time, your excuses, your holding onto the world. The drink may go down smooth, but Jesus refused it for you. He felt his pain.

The gospel is harsh. It is not a neat package or clean or money raining down from heaven. It is not undefined. There is no confusion about what it says, the world confuses that. It is bright lines. You don’t like it because it’s not easy. You don’t like it because it is speaking directly to you. You don’t like it because it requires you to sacrifice the very thing that you love, and you love it more than you love him, so you follow Him at a distance.

“the whole world  (which) is in the power of the evil one” makes man’s life a battle.” (Catechism 409, 1 John 5:19).

You’ll never get anywhere if you can’t touch him; if you are sitting down with the servants to see the outcome. (Matthew 26:58). The gospel is not a show in high-definition. 

“Peter was following him at a distance as far as the high priest’s courtyard, and going inside he sat down with the servants to see the outcome.” Matthew 26:58

Come on get happy! No, really…,

“Happy are those who love you, and happy are those who rejoice in your peace. Happy too are all who grieve over all your afflictions , For they will rejoice over you and behold all your joy forever.” Tobit 14:14

I think people are still looking for it, I know I still am. For those of us that have found God but have not found happiness, we are shunned. I don’t know many happy people. I have been searching for them. Maybe they live on an island somewhere singing their happy song and dancing their happy dance. I imagine them in brown tiki looking skirts and grass -made headbands drinking coconut drinks out of scooped out pineapples. Don’t judge me- sometimes the wonderment of fantasy is the sole place I see smiling.

I am not depressed, don’t suffer from any diagnosed mental health condition. I don’t use substances to make me feel good and I don’t drink. I don’t stay away from those things because I think I’m better than anyone else, I stay away from them because I know they are fleeting and the small slice of joy they bring won’t last. I have lived there before, and I am pretty sure you have too.

Last night in a state between not fully sleeping and not fully awake, I asked God why I couldn’t just be happy. Now don’t get me wrong, I am at peace. True peace. My soul is settled like a child in her loving mother’s arms. But happiness, that is another thing. 

The Lord showed me a series of events last night, asking me questions along the way.

“Look back on your life before me, what made you happy, what events or things made you smile?” He said

I took a peek into my past, it was moving fast. I thought about someone I had truly loved. This person made me happy. But the happiness faded like the autumn trees, and I was left with nothing.

I thought about graduating from college and law school and remember feeling accomplished, but not so much happy. That was expected of me. I don’t remember anyone gushing over me or telling me I was wonderful. I was on a robotic path that I had accepted and so nobody was surprised when I graduated summa cum laude from college, or received the law school’s service award. But then I remembered Jessica whose case I worked on in law school. We applied for clemency to the governor for her. I spent countless hours on her case. Living my dream made me happy, but then it ended. And on becoming an attorney to hundreds of children in foster care, I realized that Jessica’s face was everywhere. It was overwhelming, and that did not make me happy, anymore.

And so after scanning my head for some more memories and realizing that “happy” was fleeing too, I gave up. God didn’t, He was still waiting for me to think it through.

I started thinking about the day He found me, or how hard it was to be a Jewish convert, and then I just started thinking about Him, and I smiled. It’s been a couple of years now that I’ve known Jesus. Yes that sounds so very cliché. But I know Him. And unlike anything before I met Him or after, He always make me happy.

Inside that seed of peace He planted, is my happy. I realize that like so many other believers, without knowing it, I get swept away at times by the worldview of happiness. I am trying to say this in the most non-Christian way possible, because I hate when my writing gets caught up in the modern Christian dialect like “the world” or “believer.” I like worldview better, because that alludes to what everyone else is doing.

I’ve taken myself off of every social media outlet but this one. I don’t exist out there. I tried to outdo God last night by beefing up my fiverr account, but no go. He told me I was worth more than that, metaphorically more than $5.

And then He showed me this:

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If you love the world, the love of the Father is not in you. These are the ways of the world: wanting to please our sinful selves, wanting the sinful things we see, and being too proud of what we have. None of these come from the Father, but all of them come from the world. The world and everything that people want in it are passing away, but the person who does what God wants lives forever.

1 John 2:15-17

You can sit there and try to tell yourself a million times this scripture is not for you, but it is. We all do it. If you call yourself a Christian there are words in here for you, and if you don’t I hope you see the light breaking through from behind these words. 

Abandon all you know if you want to find happiness. Your preconceived notions, your quotes of inspiration on post its that only last for so long. Stop looking at pictures from the past. Sit in that scripture and breathe it. I’m dead serious. Inhale its aroma. There is a deep wisdom in there, do you see it? Don’t look at the religiosity of the statement, look at its words.

The next time you go chasing happiness like me, figure out what the last thing is you did that took you into the worldview of what should make you happy. Now leave that behind. Start walking again, this time into the light within yourself.

You can find me searching for eternal happiness at There’s Something About Mary.

Come eat at my table

“A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation;

Rachel weeping for her children,

and she would not be consoled, since they were no more.”

We talk a lot about human life in terms of abortion. We talk about why God values the lives of the unborn. There are protests and signs and lots of press coverage. We talk about the sacredness of all life. But in this rhetoric, we leave out a lot of life, entire segments of the population.

We leave out the homeless and the hurting, those in prison, the alcoholic, the mother afflicted with a mental health condition. What about the abused child or the dirty child or the child that beat up your child? What about the lonely girl, the tired girl, the gay child? What about the screaming bigots and racists? What about the family member who you don’t talk to because you said it was o.k.? Do you pick and choose whose life gets the title of sacred? Are you God?

The sacredness of life. It is all life. It is the people we don’t like, or turn away from or make excuses about. It is the life we read about in the paper but do nothing about. It is the tears we don’t shed after our morning coffee. It is the person we see next to us in church, in tears, who we don’t turn to. Are you a part-time Christian, a Sunday attender, a picker and a chooser? Do you play with bible verses because you’re more versed than that? Are you doing “ministry,” but neglecting your family? Are you concentrating on the masses and droves of people that could be “saved” rather than the one right next to you? Are the small things just to small for you? Big screens and fancy suited preacher, ornate church, your weekend ministry, pamphlets, no eye to eye contact, no hug or hand shake, no connection, no nothing.

If you aren’t connected, if you don’t see the truth that ALL life is sacred, you have missed the point. You have missed the love. You have missed the hope that is Jesus Christ. You shouldn’t have joined the religion of outcasts.

In your highways and byways, and everyday life, you have completely missed the mark. You are preaching your own gospel, I see it everyday.

“Let us declare that God is dead, then we ourselves will be God.”

JESUS of NAZARETH, Pope Benedict XVI

I can’t help but think of so many more than the unborn. That God’s love and reach extends so much farther than that. That the Genesis telling of being created in His image becomes so cliché when I see it on products for $9.99 plus tax. That being “saved” doesn’t mean God threw you a life -line because He loves you any more than He does the person you can’t forgive. That I am not “saved,” I am free; I am free because He released me from the captivity of my own sin… I couldn’t save myself from myself.

The next time you think about the sacredness of life, think about the people you love the most- your wife or mother, your daughter, your very closest friend. All human life has such value, because at one time the people you hate were one of these, or maybe they still are one of these. If someone has breath in them, they are precious to God. Imagine the person you hate, imagine their breath, that is the God we worship that lives inside them.

To anyone who is reading this that has ever been hurt by someone who claims Christianity, let me say I am sorry. You are so very precious and beautiful, and the God of the universe loves you as He made you. I extend my hand out to you in love and peace, honoring your life for who you are. May God bless you in ways you never fathomed, and may you always feel welcome at my table.

Come over and eat anytime with me at There’s Something About Mary

-Mary

 

A Change in Perspective

“What if there was no light

Nothing wrong, nothing right”

Coldplay

This morning I woke up thinking about the crucifixion. Not about the blood or the torment or the suffering of Jesus, but of His mother. I read a devotion which prompted me to think about her anguish at the cross. Our minds tend to focus on the obvious, unless we go deeper into ourselves, unfamiliar territory within us, uncomfortable places where we are unwilling to go.

There is much debate about the crucifixion of Jesus, even more about whether those of us who are believers look up at a pulpit or altar or center area and see a crucifix or an empty cross. As a Catholic, I stare at the crucifix every Sunday, debate it, contemplate it, try and some way get my head around it. 

But as for the many hours I have sat there with tears or joy or whatever I am feeling, staring up at the crucified body of Jesus has never had me think of Mary, until today. Until my mind was stirred with images of her at the foot of the cross, her son hanging there. I imagine she did not understand what was happening. I am sure she was confused and unsure. I am pretty positive she felt completely alone. But whether we contemplate the physicality of the corpus or the empty cross, we cannot gently skip over Mary at the cross.

I imagine her looking up and saying, “Why God why? Why me? Why now? Maybe she pleaded with God. I know she felt tortured and was in  pain and yearning to understand God’s plan. In the universality of it all, Mary at the cross becomes us, take us over and sets the stage for us at the foot of the cross, pleading with God to end the pain, and the suffering and the torture of the moment. We are there with her, pleading with God, begging God, unable to break through to the other side.

Sometimes it is through imagery that we are drawn into the supernatural. When God can place us in the book, not outside the book. When we can enter His words rather than just read them. When we take them with us down to the ground on our knees rather than zip them up. Sometimes we just need to be there, like Mary, in those moments, succumbing when we don’t understand, but nevertheless being there and not letting go of Him until we make it to the other side.

Sometimes words on a page are not enough for me, as I am sure they weren’t enough for her. I could look up and feel her. It was as if God had me down on the ground, in the dirt, looking up from her perspective. I wanted to kneel next to her and tell her it was going to be o.k. But in that moment, I knew just to kneel, to feel, to look up from her perspective, not my own. He was not my son…

When I left for mass this morning, I could not get that image out of my head. When I kneeled for silent prayer, I couldn’t look at the crucifix the same. I imagined I was her, looking up at Him. I imagined how that would feel. It gave me a new and completely different perspective, one I could not have imagined or seen before. And then I thought of all the people hurting like Mary was hurting, looking at God. Maybe instead of shoving words in their face that are bound to fall on deaf ears it was time to just kneel with them, to see the cross from their perspective instead of my own. It was what God wanted. Let go of myself, the world is hurting.

One slight change in perspective can change things for us. When we are seeking so outside of our own selves, when we will stop at nothing to find him.

“And he said to this disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from then on this disciple took her into his home.”

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

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?

Buy the book, like today. P.S. I am not receiving ANYTHING for this endorsement

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…