Kitchen Table Conversation: Justice, Crawling, Continuous

“Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.”

Luke 18:4-5

Yeah how long must you wait for it?
Yeah how long must you pay for it?
Yeah how long must you wait for it?
Oh for it

– Coldplay

I find that when I come to the end of myself, there He is, waiting. Wading through the brush, and the dirt and the branches, through the people and their ideas and opinions, through the various voices, news stories and religions, past thought aisles and philosophy, until I get to…silence.

At the end of rainbows are struggles and in preparation for the rainbows is testing. And at the end of testing is justice. After persistence and panting, searching, seeking, underneath and up above. Continual crawling and ultimate mercy, the fight to get those who are unloved to the front of the line for some food. The harder I seek the dirtier the road, the further I walk, the further I see the people who need to be seen. There are hungry people who need food. If I am not fed, if I do not struggle, if I do not writhe and beg to set myself free from the world, how then can I find and teach those that are drowning, shouting, hurting, haunted, barely living, barely holding on…

I am not mad that God has not acted, I am mad that I have not. That I have not spoken when I should have, or spoken too much, or not enough. I should’ve begged longer, held on longer, not given up on my prayer for the weary.

Could I not even watch and pray one hour?

I have failed but stand back up. I need to see with the eyes of God. She hurt me, so what? She is hurting, she deserved her own justice, but may have never got it…

Fairness is universal. Evil is the same wherever you go. Beg for the fairness we do not deserve ourselves. Beg for the justified soul that your enemy does not deserve. Twist and turn the hurt into a prayer for your foe’s salvation. Pray continually…

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Philippians 4:8 (NLT)

I was lawless and corrupt, I was lost, I was searching, I was begging, I didn’t deserve even one drop of the blood that flowed from the veins of my savior. Justice would have been my punishment for what I deserved. But in His mercy, His infinite mercy, my infinite begging, I found Jesus. He laid justice upon me when I deserved demise. He declared me His child when I deserved the gravest of penalties. He gave me His robe, I should have bore His thorns.

When we crawl, when we stretch, when we continually ask to be better than we are, when we never stop failing to reach for Him, we are justified, we are saved, we are made ready to extend our arms to the ones that need it most.

Most humble and eternal God, your justice is radical and eternal. Place within us the widow’s desperate call, asking you to save the lost and lonely and all the sinners like me who don’t deserve it. I will never stop asking you Father for your mercy. Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us.

Amen

 

 

 

Kitchen Table Conversation: Justice

Where is the Love Justice?

As a kid growing up, The Justice League was one of my favorite shows. The cartoon dedicated to superheroes working together to defeat an enemy for the common good appealed to me. Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman never failed to disappoint.

Good triumphs over evil.

Everybody needs a hero.

It was so easy then to root for the “good guys” because the opposing evil was always crystal clear. The enemy was obvious, rarely disguised or sequestered in the shadows. There were no “gray areas” just right and wrong.

There is much injustice in the world now.

People are starving, dying, and trafficked as slaves.

Discrimination and religious intolerance are rampant.

War is tearing families apart.

Even some of our real life “heroes” have failed to protect the very people they once swore to serve. There is no lack of media coverage for the latest “cop gone bad” video of the day.

Politicians blatantly betray their constituents for personal gain.

What is fair about .01% of a nation’s population possessing the wealth equivalent to the bottom 90 percent combined?!

Where is “justice” today?

One of three definitions for justice as defined by Merriam Webster is conformity to truth, fact or reason.

Now I’ve lived long enough to learn that facts can be skewed and reason is relative.

Both vary according to personal perspective.

Yet, “truth” is absolute.

God is truth.

“Many seek an audience with a ruler, but it is from the Lord that one gets justice,” Proverbs 29:26 NIV

Justice is often viewed through our own limited experiences or by the tacit agreement of a ruling majority. However, that doesn’t make it true.

So, who are we to judge?

God spared Cain who killed his brother Able.

Then the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. So Cain went out from the Lord’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden.
Genesis 4:15-16 NIV

Where is the justice in that?

Mercy, maybe. Or, love.

But justice?

King Solomon asked God for wisdom and with that he was able to administer justice.

Are today’s judges/leaders/ringmasters seeking God for such wisdom?

If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
If he is thirsty, give him a drink;
For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”
Romans 12:18-20 NKJV

Our many nations “under God” certainly haven’t embraced this particular bit of scripture.

Most of us are not mature enough to wait on God’s justice.

How much less injustice would there be in our world if we waited on God instead of us rushing out and creating more mayhem?

I suspect God declares “Vengeance is Mine,” because most of us can’t comprehend what justice truly is.

I doubt any of us can fully comprehend God’s justice any more than we can fully grasp the extent of God’s love for us.

God is justice, yet God is love.

God spared Cain.

God sacrificed His Son that we could be spared as well.

God’s justice crushes the “law” that condemns; He chooses to spare us from what we rightly deserve.

Good triumphs over evil.

Everybody needs a hero Savior.

Yes, you are here for a reason, but it’s not what you think: Why am I here?

MPresserLogo_BLK (1)
Look familiar?

One idea sparks another. Your writing and God inspired stories touch my soul. They provide wisdom and truth and open up doors. The likes and comments are human features, it’s the words and conversation that stirs my soul.

I oftentimes find myself writing about God’s gifts and calling. It has been a sort of obsession of mine ever since I can remember. And after finding the truth in God’s son, I chased after it even more. And the commercialization of it led to so much dread and defeat. The idol, that thing that you can’t stop thinking about. They are always “situations,” chasing of dreams. I am talking about the gifts and talents you know God gave you. But you think you’re not using them. And your view is so myopic. Because you are a writer, and you are writing right now. 

And so through the inspiration of another Spirit-filled writer, Melanie Jean Juneau and her post Ladislav Zaborksy: Imprisoned for His Catholic Art, I came to realize what God had been teaching me all along, don’t let the gift become your master. 

I find that us creative types especially oftentimes become prisoners of our gifts. The label of  “working” and “full-time” become intertwined with divine desire. I hear this also among the best of friends who hate their jobs and know they are just made for something more “I am suffering, I cannot bear to be here any longer.” 

Welcome to the passion of the Christ.

And I love this excerpt from Melanie’s post:

“While imprisoned, Ladislav felt as if his hands were nailed to the cross because he could not paint but only seek God in the depths of his soul. .. The result of his inner crucifixion meant he no longer fulfilled his own desires but only sought God and His desires.”

Notice he did not say that he felt crucified because he was imprisoned, but rather he felt crucified because he could not paint. And Paul from Just me Being Curious offered such an eye-opening statement on my last post about forgiveness:

“In the daily readings I have there comes up, from time to time, a suggestion to pray for all those who are prisoners of war around the world. And I always nod – and always wonder: why do we think ourselves free simply because we have a computer, a job, a home and a fine “free” life?” 

And Ladislav understood that, and now I do too. We cry out to God because we are still in jobs we don’t like or our talents don’t get us paid. We believe preachers and pastors when they tell us that we have some singular “purpose” or “calling” on our lives that we must continue to seek out day after day. But fear and pain, it is a gentle liar. 

There is only one singular purpose for our lives, and that is to glorify the Lord Jesus in all that we are and all that we do. It is not only in our giftings but also our lack thereof. It is in the hug that we give or the conversation that we have. It is in the minutia. God does not believe in minutia. In every second of every day our lives should be a song and a prayer.

Our inner crucifixion is our reconciliation to the creator moment to moment. It is deeper, way deeper than a NY Times Best Seller or any stadium filled with thousands of congregants. You may think that your purpose is to write, and that certainly may be part of God’s plan. But what if that one post or newsletter or even that one text or email changes the course of life for someone else? It certainly will not make you money or allow you to quit your day job, but it will lead you closer to understanding the role of the creator.

That thing. That thing you want more than anything. That thing you want so bad. It is consuming you. It is overshadowing God. Let it go and watch it fly away. Die to that moment. And then , only then will you be free.

Sheol and Gehenna and Hades, Oh My! – Redux

I was asked to retool this post some time ago for this site, but haven’t been free to do so until now. My hope is that this writing helps clear up some possible misconceptions of what the Bible originally stated about hell. Through translation and otherwise bad interpretation, the concept has been severely skewed and held so adamantly as a core belief that it can cause discomfort when questioned (aka cognitive dissonance). Generally, anyone challenging the belief is excommunicated by mainstream Christianity and upheld as a heretic, false prophet/teacher, etc… Knowing this, I humbly and hesitantly present my findings as I journey with God. As I’ve stated in other writings, please research these things for yourself with the Holy Spirit.

Overview
The traditional meaning of hell I was taught centered around: a place of everlasting, conscious fiery torment where any human that dies without becoming a Christian will end up. The exact methodology of this “becoming” was always a shifting target though. Even after the initial salvation experience, there’s a host of other mandates to follow to increase the coverage of the fire insurance policy. The very word hell became associated with fire and brimstone and feelings of absolute dread and despair. This led to all kinds of confusion for me growing up as I struggled to reconcile a God of unlimited love with a God whose love suddenly runs out when our heart stops beating. Or an infinitely powerful God who doesn’t have the power or authority to succeed in his plan (Col 1:20).

In other words, if this infinitely loving and infinitely powerful God loves everyone and wishes to reconcile everyone to himself, how can any single part of his plan fail in the end? Why would a system be created that allows the majority of his plan to fail? Who really wins in that scenario?

How does “hell,” as we’ve been taught to know it, fit into this picture?

Sheol
So, first, the Old Testament. In translations such as the KJV, the word hell appears in several places. However, this concept mainly refers to Sheol, a Hebrew term for the grave or place of the dead. Everyone—good, bad, or indifferent—ended up here. We see an instance of a prophet being contacted in Sheol within the Old Testament—Saul consults a medium to contact Samuel (1 Samuel 28). This raises the question—why would a prophet be in Sheol instead of Heaven?

In addition, there was no burning or torment in Sheol, and David even stated that God would be there! Compare the below verses from Psalms 139:8 (emphasis mine for clarity):

KJV: If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.
NIV: If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
WEB: If I ascend up into heaven, you are there. If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, you are there!

Which translation is most accurate here? Is God in hell like the KJV states? Was the prophet Samuel in hell though he served God all his life?

Note here in the Old Testament, even King David seemed to be confused as to what the afterlife might hold, but he knew that God had a plan! Based on the prophecies, David having a touch of the prophetic himself, a Messiah was to come to release the prisoners from the grave (Sheol) (Psalm 68:18).

What did “hell” originally mean?
Searching for the origin of the word hell (ref), I found it was neither a Hebrew or Greek word. It comes from the Germanic and means “to cover or hide” in Old English. So, we can see that the original meaning of the word through the Old Testament syncs up well with the KJV translation. The dirt of the grave covers us when we die. So technically, hell (the covering of dirt) has frozen over many, many times all over the world. If anyone has ever said “when hell freezes over,” well….then they may have an outstanding debt to someone.

What could have happened?
This brings about the next big question: How did burning and torment come to be associated with Sheol between the Old and New Testament?

It would seem between the end of the Old and the beginning of the New, the idea came about of “bad” people going to a torturous, burning afterlife while the “good” people went to a place of peace and joy. Sheol was the major afterlife belief of the Jewish society up until ~200 BC when the Hades theology began to become more dominant (ref). This is the most probable difference in the Sanhedrin—the Sadducees purportedly believing in Sheol (but not it being overcome) and the Pharisees’ belief in Hades. It seems as the Pharisees’ became more dominant, the Greek view of a burning afterlife (Hades) got incorporated into the Jewish culture, which brings us to the next point:

Jesus never talked about hell as we know it today, he spoke about Gehenna and Hades. These were universally translated to say hell in the KJV. This is probably the biggest pitfall to that translation as they are different, distinct places. In short:

Hades is the Greek version of a conscious, burning afterlife. Keep in mind this originated as a “pagan” concept and not as a Hebrew one.

Gehenna, aka The Valley on the Son of Hinnom, is a place outside of Jerusalem. Due to the child sacrifices that took place here (2 Chronicles 28:3), part of it became known as Topheth (2 Kings 23:10), most likely meaning the “place of burning” (ref). Jeremiah also speaks of this valley and Topheth within Jeremiah 7:31-32 and 19:6. The Jewish historian Josephus additionally reports bodies being dumped here during the siege of Jerusalem 69/70 AD (ref1, ref2). This type of environment likely breed an exceptionally hard to kill worm (Mark 9:48) which fed off of the refuse of the corpses.

Sheol, as explained above, is the original Hebrew concept of death or the grave.

When these three are mixed, we get a doctrinal quagmire we refer to today as hell. It would seem the religious leaders adopted the Greek invaders’ version of hell into their afterlife theology to hold it over the Jewish peoples’ heads as the place to avoid by observing the strictest principles of the law.

Gehenna and the Sermon on the Mount
Jesus speaks of Gehenna a few times during the Sermon on the Mount. He tells the audience there that if they are unable to uphold the most strictest interpretation of the Law, thereby surpassing the Pharisees, they would be cast into Gehenna. It would be better if they did things like plucking out their eyes to avoid lustful thoughts. The people would have had a good understanding of what Jesus was referencing when he mentions Gehenna here—a physical location outside of Jerusalem.

So, how could they—and just as important, how do we—uphold this extremely strict view of the Law? Simply, they—and we—can’t. Jesus was stating the inevitable path of attempting to uphold an ever stricter set of laws to be perfect like God. As humans, we can’t. It is impossible for us to be perfect by our human methods of conformance and rule following. It is only through Jesus that we can be perfect. Striving for the goal of perfection without Jesus leads us to a point of comparative righteous. We consider ourselves better than others, thereby justifying our right to impose our superior standards on others in God’s name–which, not surprisingly, riles those “others” we constantly condemn. The religious leaders were setting their standard of righteousness by law and professing destruction and doom to any that couldn’t meet it (Luke 11:46). According to Jesus, no one meets the actual standard! When Jesus asks the Pharisees, “how will you escape the judgment of Gehenna?” (Matt 23:33), he was referring to what was coming as listed from the next verse (34) and onward.

The Hades Parable
Jesus speaks of Hades, specifically referencing the Greek version of where bad people go, in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. We see Lazarus, the outsider, in Paradise with the Jewish forefather, Abraham, while the evil rich man was being tormented in Hades. What was Jesus’ point here? First, we have to look at who Jesus was talking to—the Pharisees (Luke 16:14). It would seem the Pharisees were one of the groups perpetuating the idea of punishment by burning in hell-fire. In his parable, Jesus places the poor outsider (the gentiles) in Paradise with the Jewish ancestor, Abraham. Meanwhile, he measures those who had thought they were rich in righteousness by their own standard (Matt 7:2), placing them in Hades. He used their own condemnation against them to say, “If you are so adamant about holding the threat of Hades over others, you ‘righteous’ lot will be the ones that end up there while those outsiders receive your inheritance (Matt 21:43).”

Sadly, it seems many Christians today still wield the threat of hell as a weapon of fear the same way the Pharisees did.

Addendum: The Lake of Fire and the Second Death
This brings me to some of the final points in this writing. As I stated in another post, the Old Testament view of fire, in relation to God and prior to the Greek influence, was for purification. Likewise, fire in the New Testament seems to be referencing purification, whether in this life or the next (1 Cor 3:13-15, Mark 9:49). So how about that second death business? This would seem to be the purification process of the lake of fire. This topic and its’ correlations go much deeper and possibly deserve a post of their own, but begin to stride too far outside of the scope of this writing.

Additional Considerations
I know this is quite long, but I wanted to hit all the major points. These are my viewpoints and I encourage anyone reading this to research for themselves. My overall point in writing this is to help remove the fear and manipulation of the confusing views of hell and punishment that many have been subjugated by for so long so they can live in the freedom of Jesus’ love (1 John 4:18)!

Consider also, the apostle Paul only mentions Hades to the assemblies once, in that Jesus has defeated the very concept of this kind of punishment (1 Cor 15:55). Likewise, scriptures such as this, referring to Death, seem to relay Jesus’ defeat of Sheol—aka being captive to the grave—but not the destruction of physically dying as we know it today.

It seems many Christians have been made too afraid to ask these questions or investigate the concepts listed here. However, is it really a relationship with Father if we can’t bring our deepest questions and concerns to him?

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

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.

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

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

 

Confession with a Chuckle

So sad, but true. Here, in a 3 minute video, is a pretty accurate recap of the first 3/4 of my ministry life. I was a “fixer”, a “designer”, a “planner”, and “program author”. Could write all the manuals, teaching points, charts and illustrations, and bullet lists for any conceivable ministry effort. I was often lost in paperwork for days at a time.

Jesus laughed at me a lot. Nothing wrong with my heart, just sort of had my priorities a bit confused. I used to believe in “interruptions”. I don’t anymore. There’s just “opportunities”.

How about you and those you serve with? Which do you believe in?

“Interruptions to the Work of Ministry”

or

“Opportunities to Minister” ?

How do we look at an unexpected expression of need? I hope you enjoy this video as much as I did! Grace to thee!

Religion or Relationship?

I just did an bad thing.  Well, for me it was bad.  I engaged in commenting on a FB post about Christianity.

I told myself to stay away from commenting on religion and politics.  Why?  Because I can get really angry.  The person who posts some of these things are usually angry to start with and why throw more wood on the fire?  You tend to get no where.  Just bigger fires.

So today I broke my self made rule.  I could blame Starbucks, even though I know they have no blame whatsoever on the choice of holiday cup color.  I could really blame the Christians who think everyone is attacking them at the holidays just because they took Christ out of Christmas – what is it about “free will” (that God gave us all) you don’t understand?

What have we done, Church?  When did we decide to believe man-made religion and not believe God our Father and Jesus His Son and Holy Spirit?  When did we turn the other way and forget He lives inside of us?  That He is always there?  That He never leaves us or forsakes us?

Don’t get me wrong.  I attend a local church.  I love the people.  I love the Pastors teachings and his heart.  But the moment I become more loyal to an institution and turn from my loyalty to God as my best Friend, the One who knows ALL about me, the One who wants and longs for me to enjoy His company and I His, that moment is a big mistake.

There.  I said it.  Dear Readers, know that I fail daily at this relationship with God.  It is so much easier to be handed a manual and rules to go by.  I like order.  But when I told Him that He can have all of me……. When I told Him to take my life and change me and make me more like Him……..  When I told Him I wanted a life of faith and adventures with Him…..  Well, He took me up on it.  It’s hard.  There are many days I’ve wanted to sign up and join the crowd and just do whatever they ask.  But He gently lets me go and when I fail He gently takes me into His arms and loves on me.  That is priceless.

I read the thoughts of a person so bitter against God and Jesus that they actually said that they are better off.  They were tired of the lies and perversions they have seen in the church.  I get that.  But to throw away your chance of eternity because of religious people who have failed at relationship with God…… is that worth it?

Just some thoughts to ponder.  I’m not up for arguing.  Hopefully you can read my words and understand what my heart is saying.  In a nutshell……. it’s about knowing God, Jesus, Holy Spirit and all that entails.  And to find out what that is for you is an act of faith and seeking Him out.

Love you all.

Enjoy!

Cate B