Z is for Zealous

ZWow. 26 days, 26 letters of the alphabet and 26 posts and nearly 26,000 words. I wasn’t sure I could actually do this but here it is, the last day! Not only did I finish what I started, but I think it’s safe to say that I have established a new zealousness for writing and for that I am am truly grateful.

Zealousness is a funny thing. It can so easily slip from being a good thing to bad and it seems there are many things that are “acceptable” to be zealous about while there are other things that are not.

For example, living in Denver, it is not only okay but really expected that I should be a zealous Bronco fan.

zealous-for-good-6-728I am overall a zealous person. I am passionate about so many things in my life – the care and rights of animals and children, music, acting, my faith and, newly reborn, writing.

When asked about the things I care about, my whole being seems to get involved in the discussion. I feel my heart rate elevate, my speech pattern change, and my hands – which are animated when I talk anyway – take on a life of their own. I’m sure I look like a crazy person, but honestly, I wouldn’t change it for anything. I would rather be fervent about even one thing than go through life never having found my passion.

But being a zealous person has a price.

Throughout the Bible, those who are zealous for the Lord have lost everything. In 1 Kings, Elijah weeps to the Lord about the tearing down of alters and forsaking of the Lord’s covenant and due to Elijah’s zeal for God, the people seek to kill him.

In the New Testament, Mark was so zealous a proclaimer of Jesus that his words put Jesus in further danger and He and his disciples were forced to stay in unpopulated areas for safety.

Zealousness can be equally dangerous for others things in our life as well. The more passionate we become about something, the more adamantly those who believe oppositely will fight. I mean, take a look at the political atmosphere in our country today and this can be clearly witnessed.  It almost doesn’t seem worth it, being a passionate person, and yet one can’t really change their nature, can they?

Even if I could change my basic nature, I wouldn’t choose to, even though I realize the following things about my zealous nature.

Being zealous means despite the desire to be a member of the “popular crowd”, particularly when I was younger, I am willing to be ostracized from them now. It means often feeling like an outsider and choosing to stay that way than change my thoughts, feelings or beliefs to make myself more mainstream. And it means that I am often seen as “challenging”.

I’m okay with that.

Buddah zeal

I’m also okay with the fact that my zeal for my faith has been one of the things that has made my dating life..umm…quiet.

I am content with the fact that my zealousness about wanting to have a job that is meaningful to me is part of what makes my day to day grind so much harder than it probably has to be.

And I am accepting of the fact that my zeal to live the life God intends me to live means that I am also zealously looking at my thoughts, words and deeds to try to make sure I do not dishonor God. Clearly I am not perfect and therefore do dishonor Him from time to time, but I continue to try to act as God would have me act.

Funny thing is that even though the things I am zealous about are things other are equally fanatical about, my zealousness is very different than others. Though I am sold out for my faith, I don’t believe that my faith calls me to relate only with other believers or to condemn those who don’t believe the way I do. Though I am dedicated to the rights of animals and children I have never participated in protests or political rallies for their causes. And while I am zealous about my hobbies – music, theater and writing – I have not come to a place in my life where I am willing to forego a steady paycheck for the ability to do these things full time.

Reading through that last paragraph, maybe you may not see me as zealous as all, but I feel it in my heart. for me, the difference is I have not yet come to a place i my life where I feel comfortable letting go of stability and safety. Maybe this will change, maybe it won’t. I believe God will show me if I need to adjust this.

GoldsmithFor now, I will continue to maintain my focus on these things that are important to me and I hope that I as my writing continues, you will continue along my journey.In the meantime, than you for taking the time to spend the last 26 days with me. I pray you have been blessed by my thoughts.

And now for a nice glass of wine to celebrate the end of this small journey.

Until next time…

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Y is for Yearning

YWhat are the things you most yearn for at this point in your life? Are they the same as they were a year ago? Five years ago?

I find as I get ready to hit that mid-century mark the things I truly yearn for are so much simpler but so much bigger now than they used to be.

When I was in my 20’s, I felt lost and alone. I didn’t really know who I was or what direction I was headed. I yearned for feelings of safety and security; yearned to feel in control of my life and the things in it. I longed to have the life I imagined others did. I remember looking in windows of homes as I walked by imagining what the families who lived there were like. If it was a moderate home, I would imagine a happy family with a loving couple and a a child or two, probably a dog in the back yard. In more contemporary homes, I imagined the power couple. Strong, assertive ladder climbers who were making money hand over fist, going to exciting parties and traveling the world. Regardless of the home, the people I imagined there always had so much more than I felt I did and I longed for just an ounce of the happiness I imagined they all had.

In my 30’s, I truly longed for a family and a career that would make me feel proud – and more importantly, would make my parents proud. I reached and I reached, but even though I got married and had 3 stepsons I was helping to raise, it never felt like it was quite enough.I tried going to seminary but the travel and stress of the studies exacerbated an illness I didn’t know I had and my plans were significantly detoured.

I did what I could to get back on track, though. I found a job for a wonderful non-profit GailGodwinorganization but somehow the yearning never went away. I hadn’t found that missing piece yet; that thing or things that would make me feel complete.

My 40’s? This was a time of turmoil and change. At the beginning,  I was getting a divorce and felt like one of the Israelites who had finally stopped wandering in the desert but I soon found out that the wandering hadn’t ended, it had merely changed locations.

Still dealing with illness and grief from the loss of a life I had hoped to build, I don’t think there was energy to pinpoint even one thing I was yearning for at the time. So many things were changing that I never had my feet on the ground long enough to figure out where I was and where I wanted to be. Eventually, I felt the need to come home, back to Colorado. I wanted to see if going home would put me in a place where I felt I fit in better. I wanted to see if my geographical location was the cause of my overall sense of alienation. I hoped if   I could be near my family I could repair bridges and be around my dad in his elder years. I was able to mend fences and build relationships that hadn’t really ever developed, but the undefined longing was still there.

Now here I am, almost 50, and my yearnings are so clear they throb in my chest like a heartbeat.

I yearn for meaningful relationships that bring joy to my daily life and make me reach outside of my comfort zone to seek new challenges. I yearn for a special relationship that will feel like a partnership rather than a mistake; true love rather than the only place I could find. Continue reading Y is for Yearning

X is for Xenophobia

XI love musical theater. It has been a part of my life since high school and I more often than not have the Broadway channel playing on my Sirius radio when I’m in my car. One of the things that I love about musical theater is the way it can address issues that the rest of society chooses to ignore.

For example, one of my favorite shows is Avenue Q – Sesame Street as told through they words of South Park.

Yes, it’s a little twisted, but that’s probably why I love it.

Anyway, one of the songs from that show is “Everyone’s  a Little Bit Racist”. I know that sounds awful, but I truly believe every one of us has some small fear or uncertainty about people from another race or culture.

For example, while I have been lucky enough to travel many places and live in several different locations, I honestly found myself a little fearful of the ways of the “old South” when I moved there in 2000.

To most of you that probably sounds ridiculous and judgemental, but let me tell you, it was a completely different world than where I had come from.

Born and raised in Colorado, I lived most of my life in the suburbs. I had never been confronted with racism or cultural differences the way I was when my ex-husband and I moved to a small, rural town in South Carolina. Not Southern

Suddenly, I was in a place where racism was a way of life; where walking into the “wrong” restaurant or barber shop meant all talking ended and all eyes turned to stare until I realized the error of my ways and retreated.  I felt out-of-place and isolated and a part of me began to feed into the fearfulness and racist thoughts parroted around me. Despite the valiant efforts of neighbors and church members to help, I withdrew out of feelings of fear and isolation.

While not truly “xenophobia” by definition, I certainly gained some understanding into this issue that I wouldn’t have understood otherwise.

Xenophobia is defined as an “intense or irrational dislike or fear of people from other countries” and is this phobia that was at the core of the Japanese prison camps during World War II. I would have thought that with all of the information we have literally at our fingertips about people and cultures, something like xenophobia would have gone the way of the dinosaur, but I think it’s safe to say this is a common and growing phobia in our country today that has been exacerbated by our current political atmosphere. Xenophobes of every shape can find fuel for their fires with just a few clicks of the keyboard and the fears grow larger and larger.

xenophobia.pngNowadays, xenophobia doesn’t even seem to be limited to people from one country or another. We are suddenly fearful of everyone. We need to build a wall between the US and Mexico, keep all Muslims out, and turn away refugees fleeing from war-torn areas like Syria and Iraq.

While there are viable arguments for and against refugees and the influx of illegal aliens from Mexico and other countries, it seems the bottom line here really is fear.

We are fearful of people and customs we don’t understand and our response to this fear is to lash out with violence and anger and what’s really sad is that this is an issue that has been persistent among God’s people since the beginning.

Time and time again God has had to tell His people to treat foreigners with love and to not do them wrongly when they visit, yet time and time again, both then and now, we fail. We draw tighter and tighter circles around us to keep those who differ from us as far away as possible.

And what does this accomplish?

We get even more fearful and more angry.

Well gosh – that’s helpful!

If we’re not careful, soon we’ll all be living in those old shelters from the ’50’s that were designed for the bombs everyone was certain were coming but instead of keeping us safe from nuclear war, they’ll keep us isolated from anyone who isn’t directly related to us because “those people” are to be feared.

zecharriahNow I realize that there are people in this world that should be feared. There are true enemies out there that we need to be aware of and on guard against, but merely being of another culture or country does not make someone a part of that group. If it did, that would mean that any time we travel to another country, we would be the ones to be feared because we would be the “others”.

Here’s the bottom line. We are all “others”. We all are different from one another and all of us are aliens to our true home, heaven. But God, in His infinite grace and mercy does not care where we come from, just that we come to Him. If God is willing to accept us and He knows each and every one of our faults, isn’t it within us to accept the failings of those around us which are far more minor in comparison?

No. I agree. It’s not that easy. There is fear and there is trepidation, but that shouldn’t keep us from doing it anyway.

 

 

 

W is for Wish

WThere is a war going on in our country, but it isn’t against drugs, homelessness or poverty. It’s the war against common sense and it has been raging for generations, but I fear the battle has finally been won – common sense has perished.

I’m sure you’ve see the evidence just like I have.

We now require commercials to tell parents not to let their children eat laundry detergent pods.

We have to have advertisements to instruct people not to take a medication or supplement if they are allergic to its ingredients.

We have to tell people that their hot beverage is, in fact, hot.

And my personal favorite, we have a legal system that actually awarded $13million to an individual because he did not actually grow wings when he drank Red Bull.

I think it was the last one that actually killed poor common sense, but I continue to see evidence of his demise on a daily basis.

CommonSenseFacebook is a common offender. People post and re-post articles information without thinking twice about either the content or its source.We as a culture have seemingly forgotten the ability to actually review content and determine fact from fiction for ourselves.

The news item which triggered this for me was a post from a far right-wing website which stated that the American Psychiatric Association was condoning pedophilia. The article served its purpose – it created a bonfire of hatred against the LGBT population and furthered the belief that the LGBT population are all sexually perverted predators.

The original statements quoted in the article were pulled from a conference discussion that took place in 2014 at Cambridge but became news now, of course, due to the North Carolina “bathroom law”.

I cannot argue that the statements weren’t inflammatory or disturbing. But what bothered me about this particular post was the fact that a statement by one individual 2 years ago was being portrayed as a new position by a highly respected medical association and that those who were forwarding the post were unwilling to even do a little Google search to see if the APA had, in fact, changed it’s stance on pedophilia…which it hasn’t.

For the record, I did to that Google search and found the following information:

The American Psychological Association maintains that pedophilia is a mental disorder; that sex between adults and children is always wrong; and that acting on pedophilic impulses is and should be a criminal act. The American Psychological Association has worked for many years to prevent child sexual abuse and will continue to do so.

We as a society have somehow lost the ability to question the things we read or hear. If it’s on the internet or stated on television, it must be true, right?

Wrong.

I know school has changed since I was there many, many years ago, but I am fairly certain that deductive reasoning and problem solving skills are still being taught throughout all levels of education. What happened to our ability and willingness to transfer those skills to what we read on the internet, hear on the news, read in the paper, or hear from others?

I used to think we were so afraid of offending others that we were no longer question the things we were told, read or heard, but as I look at the sheer volume of hatred that spews from the mouths and keyboards of individuals on a daily basis, it seems that we have become so self-centered and callous that we relish every opportunity to slander and crucify those who think, look or feel differently than we do.

And from my perspective, this all stems from the total annihilation of common sense.

common-sense-quote

The definition of common sense is to be ability to think and behave in a reasonable way and to make good decisions. This suggests that we actually spend time gathering additional information about a given topic before determining our perspective on the matter.

Unfortunately, I think we have been somewhat brainwashed to believe that because the information is coming from a computer, it must be completely accurate. We fail to remember that that same tool – the computer – is an unbiased, inanimate object that can only regurgitate the information that has been input into it.

Additionally, we have become so dependent upon our technology to provide us with “the right answers” (read the answers we want it to support) we have forgotten that the information we get from our beloved phones, computers, and iPads has been input by individuals with ulterior motives.

We have forgotten that our job is to actually use the brains were have been given to gather, analyze and synthesize information from a variety of places and only then determine our personal feelings about a matter.

So here is my wish.

I wish that we find a way to resurrect common sense from his burial ground and restore our ability to reason rather than misinterpret; to find a way to grant mercy to those who we see as different rather than condemn; to treat our lives and those around us as precious commodities instead of rubbish.

It’s a big wish, I know, but I think it’s possible. Challenging, yes, but possible.

Maybe we bhere-lies-common-senseegin by focusing less our ourselves and more on others, thinking about how our actions and words affect others before we do or say them, and above all, treating everyone we encounter with respect regardless of whether we fall on the same side of an issue.

Regardless of how we accomplish it, I sincerely hope that we are able to find a way to resurrect common sense from the dead..

 

 

V is for Value

VValue. The word screams out at us from every nook and cranny. We create extensive tests and scales to be able to measure the actual value of everything around us. Our educational system measured to such an extreme extent that teachers are no longer able to actually do what they were hired to do because the teaching process and the relationships that are created between the student and the teacher are no longer considered “valuable”.

Exercise is measured and studied extensively so that we can ensure that every moment we spend sweating is actually valuable.

Jobs in the corporate world are so stringently monitored that each individual has to work two to three times as hard to prove their value to the company in order that they can maintain their livelihood.

Our focus on seeing more “bang for our buck” has even helped to create the unhealthy lifestyles many of us live today.Value meals and menus often provide triple the number of calories a healthy adult needs in a given day but we buy them over and over again because we get twice as much for only a fraction more. value of nothing

Of course value isn’t only a monetary consideration but a time consideration as well. Particularly here in America, we don’t want to waste our time because our time is, after all, valuable, so we focus more and more of our time eliminating those things from our day that we feel suck up those precious moments.

Employers press to ensure that employees aren’t spending their valuable work day chatting with one another or dawdling over lunch. The 8 hour work day is now actually 9 because employers don’t want to have to pay for their employees lunch hour.

We have entire education systems setup to make sure that only the absolute necessary courses are taken. No learning about something that isn’t part of your desired professional goals. That’s a waste of time and money! Don’t teach children music or art! There is not “value” to those studies. Focus them only on the things that can lead them into the direction of professional success.

Even our leisure time is affected. Most people have television systems that allow them to skip advertisements to ensure those precious 90 seconds aren’t wasted.

Funny thing is that with all of this focus on “value”, we have actually lost sight of what is truly valuable. We are no longer actually able to see value in ourselves or others.

calculate valueDepression particularly among teenagers is skyrocketing because social interactions are taking place more and more frequently on social media rather than in person. Go to any restaurant, coffee shop or book store take a look around. People are so engrossed in their technology that they are unable to see what is actually happening all around them at any given time and are losing the ability to actually interact with one another.

We spend so much time looking at digitally enhanced images and listening to edited sound bites that we are unable to see the value in the things around us that are unaltered. Our perspective about appearances and relationships are so skewed by what is presented by the entertainment world that we are no longer able to look in the mirror and see the value of our own individuality and uniqueness.

My heart aches as I look around at the people I encounter daily who are doing absurdly stupid things just to be noticed. Each of these individuals just wants to be truly seen and they are acting out in whatever way possible for someone to notice. They place their own safety and dignity at risk failing to understand that it is their inability to see the value in themselves and others that keeps them from being valued in return. .

I know this because I have been tself valuehere.

I spent years in emotionally empty relationships because I didn’t see myself as a person of value; a person that was worthy of more. I struggled – and to some extent do still – because I don’t have the things that our society considers valuable. I do not have  a named profession, i.e., I am not a doctor, lawyer, architect or Indian Chief. I am not married, wealthy, famous or what most people in our society would consider successful.

I used to wear all of this like a coat of armor – displaying these things as proof of my lack of value for all to see but then unable to understand why I was treated as valueless.

The truth of the matter is all of us are valuable. God took the time to create each and every one of us individually and uniquely. Even if there is some doppelgänger out there that seems to have your same face or features, you and I are all absolutely unique making each and every one of us not only valuable  but invaluable.

Our value doesn’t come from what we do, how much money we have or how big a splash we make in this life.

Our value comes in recognizing our unique abilities and skills and utilizing them to the best of our ability.

We increase our value by recognizing the value of others and assuring they know they are valued. After all, each person in our lives is there for a reason and that reason – however large or small it may seem – is valuable to us and for our journey here on this earth.knowing-your-worth-quotes-i15

We make our value immeasurable by recognizing and acknowledging that the One who created all that is known and unknown took the time to create every piece of each one of us.

Tonight as you close your eyes or tomorrow as you rise, I pray you are able to understand that you and everyone around you are valuable every moment of every day.

 

U is for Unbreakable

UDo you ever find yourself wishing you were truly unbreakable? That the bones and sinews that hold you together physically could never be pushed past their level of strength and that the heart and other internal organs that are protected by that muscular-skeletal system would never have to go through the intense pain of being broken?

There are many times in my past that I have wished this for myself; that every part of me would be strong enough to withstand anything but instead, I looked in the mirror and more often than not saw pieces of myself shattered like glass shards all over the floor.

Physical breaks are so different from the emotional or spiritual ones. Having struggled with illness myself, I know the frustration of being unable to make my body do something it previously could or that it should be able to do. I know the sheer exhaustion that comes from just getting a shower or walking to and from the kitchen. I remember being absolutely furious with how challenging it was to ride in the car for a period of time longer than 20 minutes. Those times are frustrating and infuriating, but for me, they also spurred me to push myself harder than I had before to find physical strength and abilities I never knew I had – or that I wanted to have, for that matter.

Emotional and spiritual breakage is so much harder. There is no scan to say things are healing well, no blood test that can be done to say that the thing that caused the break is being eliminated.

I remember when I was quite young feeling so broken, damaged and forgotten that all I wanted to was a Mulligan for my life. I wanted someone to offer me the chance to start over and see if I could do it better the next time. I recently  heard a woman discussing suicide among teens and 20’s which indicated that this feeling is quite widespread these days. broken things

Everyone wants the chance to start over – to erase the things that went badly and try again to see if we can do it again better. We want that magical superglue that will put all of the pieces of our lives that have shattered off over the years back in place so we can feel whole again; pretend those things never happened.

Most people I have come across hate the idea of being broken. We all want to pretend that we are better than that; that despite the circumstances of our lives we have remained strong, unbreakable.

But of course, we know this isn’t possible for any of us. It wasn’t even true for Jesus.

Despite being the Son of God, Jesus, too, was breakable in His humanity and not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually. Jesus wept at the loss of his friend, Lazarus, he screamed in anger at the vendors in the temple, he felt betrayal from his friends and family and begged for the mercy, crying out to His Father to be freed from the need to walk the road to crucifixion.

I would like to say that these this glimpse into the humanity of Jesus always made me feel better, but it didn’t. Instead, I took His frailty to mean that if He couldn’t be unbreakable, there was no hope for me. While I believed that I was placed here by God for a purpose, I didn’t think that God could ever really love someone as broken and un-lovable as me. I saw myself like a caricature of a scullery maid. I was here to do the dirty work and then I would simply be tossed aside like so much dust and dirt from a dustpan.

It was a lonely, sad existence.

eggBut after my second divorce, something happened.

Through the times of being essentially homeless, unemployed, no access to any money and no support system around me, I found my strength in my brokeness.

At some point, I began to see myself less like shards of glass and more like the individual threads that make up a strong rope. Each piece by itself is fragile and useless, but when woven together the whole is strong and purposeful.

As I have worked through the pieces of my brokeness caused by anger, abuse, frustration, self-pity and the pressure of life itself, I found that each piece was broken for a reason.

If I had never been abused, struggled with depression, had marriages fail and fought to find self-worth, I would not be in a place to minister to those who fight similar battles.

I realized that being unbroken would be far more of a disadvantage than being broken. Each broken place in my life both past and current is an opportunity for God to prune off parts of me that are unhealthy and allow me to grow stronger, healthier and more connected to my root – God Himself.

Now I can’t say that I enjoy this process. Its painful and there are many of my broken pieces I not only wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, but that I wish could have been pruned from my far sooner than they were.

The hard part of recognizing my brokeness is realizing that I have often chosen the things in my life that broke me. It was my choice to put myself in situations I recognized as unhealthy or dangerous and ignore the screaming bells ringing in my head telling me to turn away.

Continue reading U is for Unbreakable

T is for Trinity

TWhen I was in my mid 20’s I went to visit my grandfather.It was not an unusual thing, me visiting him, though I regret I didn’t visit as often as I should have, but on this particular day I certainly wasn’t expecting anything different from our usual conversations.

A resident of a retirement home for a few years by then, our conversations typically gravitated to stories of his life with my grandmother. He would tell me how their marriage had been a “trial marriage” but the trial had worked out alright.

They’d been married 60 years.

The balance of longing for that kind of relationship for my own life was tempered with seeing the agony of the life he was living – sitting in his chair or lying in his bed and waiting. Waiting to die so he could join the love of his life.

On this particular day, though, my grandfather – 89 years old at the time, I believe – told me he had watched a Billy Graham revival on television and had accepted Christ as his savior and could I please explain the Trinity to him.

Now on the one hand, what an amazing thing to hear from an elderly man who I loved so dearly, but on the other, what words could I as a 20-something year old find to explain one of the most complex concepts in all of Christianity?

the_trinity

On a basic level, it seems pretty simple. Nearly everything I can think of is made up of multiple parts. A tree has a root system, the trunk, the leaves; a human being has the skin, the muscular-skeletal system and the internal organ system; flowers, grass, everything is made up of different pieces to form the whole.

But since we are talking about God, we know that it is not simple. God is complex and therefore God’s Trinity is complex as well.

Many questions come up when discussing Trinity. Things like if God is made up of multiple parts, how do we know that all of those parts are good? Or if God is a Triune but also One, does that mean that God was also tempted when His Son was tempted? Or died when His son died?

I don’t have the answer to these questions any more than I have the answers to how God can take a piece of Himself and send that piece to earth to live as a mortal only to be murdered and return to Himself. I didn’t have the answers when I was in my 20’s and I’ don’t have them now, but here is what I do know.

We individually are not gods nor is there any one being here on this earth that is God. Only God is God and as God, He has the power to be in more than one place at one time. He can be with me here in my time of need and also be in the point and time where all of this earthly existence has been completed and another reality has been established.

In the same way God can be in heaven guiding and directing the ministry of His son here on earth and providing all of us the peace and comfort that comes from the Holy Spirit – even before we knew of the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Packer quote

Alright. So this is some mystical craziness that only takes place in the heavens and has nothing to do with us individually except as it pertains to our relationship with God, right?

Wrong.

The thing that we either don’t quite grasp about the Trinity or perhaps never really thought about is the fact that the purpose of the Trinity is just to provide excellent fodder for theological discussion.

The fact of the matter is that, as with all things of God, there is a representation in the Trinity for each of us and how God designed us to live.

No, I can’t astral-project myself to another plain to live a different existence nor can I send part of my spiritual force to others for comfort. But what I can do – and what each of us are called to do – is to live as a part of  a trinity just as God does. I do this in the following way:

  1. Keep God at the center of my life: focusing on God, His calling for my life, and His daily direction for me knowing that His plan is perfect and has been completed in His time perfectly
  2. Be an earthly representation of love and grace: Though I am far from perfect, to the best of my ability, I can live my life in a way that glorifies and honors God
  3. Extend my arms to others creating community: I am not the Holy Spirit nor can I pretend to be, but I can extend my arms to others offering the love, grace and mercy of God

Now I would love to take credit for this little list, but the fact is it came from the sermon at my church today and it resonated so clearly to me that I had to offer it to you and here is my take away from the message.

Because God is God and God is perfect, nothing He does – now or ever – is by accident or random. God did not create Himself in the form a Trinity so we could be confuCatholic quotesed, but rather so we would have a representation of how we are supposed to live our lives. While I cannot connect with all persons in need, maybe if I keep my eyes and heart toward God, my feet planted firmly on the ground to keep me centered in the knowledge of who I am and how my actions affect others, then I can complete the trinity by reaching my arms out to touch others and they, in turn, can do the same.

If we do it right, we can all connect to one another, our collective eyes will focus on God, and our hearts will all beat as one unit with God.

I just wish I had those words when my Gramps asked me.

S is for Sacrifice

SI have Comcast cable (yes, I know…please save your rant against “the man”) and this week is “Watch Week” – a week dedicated solely to binging on watching all of the television shows and movies subscribes don’t normally get the chance to watch because they don’t subscribe to the channels the shows are being played on. Yes, its a big ploy to get people to subscribe to more services.

Now I am not a subscriber to paid channels like HBO, I don’t stream Netflix or other services and am not typically a binge watcher unless you count having the television on in the background while I work. I personally don’t count that because I typically have absolutely no idea what’s on – its just background noise; a sense of having someone else in the room with me. However, this time, I have fallen into the trap. I made the mistake of looking to see what was available on Friday night and was sucked into the wormhole that is binge watching in order to see an HBO series True Crime. I am a fan of murder mysteries of all kinds so the name was intriguing  and when I saw that it starred Matthew McConnaughey and Woody Harrelson I figured I couldn’t really go wrong staring at the two of them for a an hour or 5.

I’m now nearly done with series 1. The story of this season centers around the hunt for a serial killer who poses women in poses which are both complex and sacrificial in nature which made me realize how thankful I am that the Christian faith doesn’t require me to participate in the sacrifice of animals.

I just don’t understand how sacrificing an innocent living creature provides sanctification Mother Theresafor something that I have done wrong. At a basic level, I guess I understand the concept – I did something wrong and now must pay for that wrong. I understand that part but I don’t understand is how the payment for my wrongdoing became something having to have it’s throat slit as opposed to say having to repay a person that I stole from or acknowledging a lie and having to make up for that lie by first acknowledging it to the person I lied to and then having to earn back trust from that person.

How is murder or anything the act of a loving God? And how do we know that this God of vengeance isn’t going to change His mind as He seems to have done between the Old Testament and the New Testament and suddenly start requiring His followers to being human sacrifices? Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t help but feel the concept of a living sacrifice seems vindictive at best and evil at worst.

I also can’t help but wonder if we didn’t just get it wrong in times of the Old Testament.I mean, the idea of sacrificing first fruits of one’s crop seems understandable to me. I personally tithe to my church because I believe that I have what I have because of the plan God has put in place for me and it is right for me to offer my thanks for these blessings by helping to support my community. But moving from first fruits – taking away something that you have worked for and been blessed with to give thanks to God – and substituting a bird, lamb, or other living creature doesn’t make sense to me.How does this type of sacrifice bring glory to God?

TGodQuoteshe God that requires sacrifice of this type is mean and vengeful, not loving and while I understand that the Old Testament is full of stories of God being extremely vengeful, at this point in my spiritual walk, I have a hard time reconciling that God with the God that is described in the New Testament. Either God changed significantly – which would indicate that our God is not consistent and could change His mind at any time about anything including just wiping us all off the earth for no other reason than He feels like it today – or we misinterpreted what God was instructing us to do and perhaps it was the misunderstanding that lead to the destructions depicted in the Old Testament, not the vengefulness of God.

The thing is I do believe that we a members of a faith body need to make sacrifices in order to stay true to our beliefs and to grow in our spirituality, but to me, making a sacrifice that is personal makes more sense to me than killing something external. Even being told I had to contort my body into the unbelievably difficult poses of advanced yoga would make more sense to me than blood sacrifice.

I hear you asking what about the sacrifice of Jesus who came and died on the cross in order that we wouldn’t have to do sacrifices any more? This is an enormous topic and not something I can get into fully here, but let me say this. Yes, I believe Jesus is my Lord, that He came to this earth, provided a living example of the life we are to live, was murdered on the cross, died and was resurrected and returned to his place in the Trinity. Yes, I believe He sacrificed Himself – both by coming to earth as a human and then through His death – but I find myself wondering if the focus on the blood sacrifice is actually missing the point of His time here.

What if Jesus’ coming was less about His death and more about His living?sacrifice of self

I mean, Christians certainly do focus on His life and miracles, but in a lot of ways we are still so much like the disciples – just missing out on the general purpose for His time here on earth.

As i think about the way Jesus lived, it seems to me that he lived a life of daily sacrifice to honor God and we often miss that part of the story, choosing instead to look at the blood and drama of the story. The bottom line of Jesus’ coming to earth was LOVE not blood, and from my somewhat unconventional perspective, it seems to me that my job here as a Christian should be the same.

From my somewhat unconventional perspective, it seems to me that Jesus provided a living, physical example of how to live out the Ten Commandments – which are surprisingly similar to the Buddhist beliefs of sacrifice.

Buddhist sacrifice is about denying worldly pleasures – things like alcohol, lavish living, acting out in anger at others, to name a few, in order to live a life of honor. While Buddhist practice is about internal reflection and action, I see distinct correlations to the way Jesus lived these same sorts of principles to bring honor and glory to God. Rather than focusing on how these self-sacrifices were making Him better (which wasn’t possible since He’s perfect), he pointed the glory up to God.

This is, to me, the type of sacrifice we should be continuing to practice. Doing things like spending more time in prayer instead of going out on the town every weekend or spending the money I would spend on alcohol caring for those in need certainly would bring more glory to God and also remind me of not only His presence in my life, but who is ultimately in control of my life..

And isn’t sacrifice about reminding us who’s in control?

sacrifice-loveThe bottom line for me is this: the God I choose to follow – that I believe placed me here and has a plan for me – is a loving God that provides ways for me to follow His ways in peace and love. He sent His son to show me how to do that and it is my job while I am here to try to live out that example as best I can.

A note on self worth

A fellow blogger posted this wonderful blog today about self-worth. Please take a moment to read. I think you will be as blessed by her thoughts and images as I was.

My theme for the A to Z Blog Challenge @AprilA2Z during the month of April is ~ My Life Is My Masterpiece ~ Lessons Learned COMES THE DAWN After a while you learn the subtle difference Between holding a hand and chaining a soul, And you learn that love doesn’t mean leaning And company doesn’t mean […]

via Me in the Middle of #atozchallenge ~ Letter S — Me In the Middle

R is for Restoration

restorationI have always loved old restored homes and cars. The love and dedication it takes to takes to do this is astronomical, but the end result is so wonderful the work is completely worth it.

Take a beautiful old Victorian home. There were several in the town where I went to college.  Cheap, ugly paint was slapped coat over coat to cover stains , carpet was laid over beautiful hardwood floors and cheap laminate tiles were placed over the original ceramic tiles. For many people, the work needed wouldn’t be worth the effort, but then someone who sees the true bones of the old architecture – who understand the original intent and concept of those homes- takes the time to strip those new additions away and the beauty unveiled is worth every drop of sweat.

Of course these days, there are many who believe that just tearing old things down and replacing them with something new and shiny is better. It typically costs less, often takes less time, and you can create something state of the art rather than something that still relies on push-button light switches and radiator heat.MurrayBeforeandAfter.PNG

As Christians, we are often like those looking to tear down the old and replace it with the shiny newness. After all, isn’t that what the Bible promises?  Paul promises in his second letter to the Corinthians that anyone who is in Christ Jesus is a new creation. Doesn’t that mean that once we “become a Christian” the old, non-Christian is wiped away and is replaced with a shiny new version?

Well, I hate to break it to you, but at least in my opinion, this is not at all what happens or really what Paul was even trying to say.

Since all of us were created in God’s image, that means that good, bad, or indifferent, we all have the same “bones”. God made us so therefore we are good.

So why do we have to change?

We need to change because like that Victorian home, time events change what God created. The struggles of live covers each of us with layers of dirt and grime that hide the beauty of the work of God. All we are able to see is the brokenness; the hurts, anger, disappointments and struggles that have added layer after layer of grime which hardens and becomes like rock that is unmoved by our tears or the love and affection of other humans. The only way we can return to our former glory – the image of God – someone has to start chiseling away at the negative outside.

Now here is where it gets a bit tricky.

heavens-higherI don’t believe that this work is done by God, Jesus or the Holy Spirit. Rather, we as spiritual beings must take the hammer and chisel to our ourselves and break down the barriers that keep us from the full understanding and knowledge God.

To me, as I look at the way many people practice their faith these days, it seems that they believe if they pray enough for God to create in them a clean heart, the work will be done for them; that God will remove those thinks that keep us at a distance from Him and all we have to do is pray and wait.

I personally don’t believe this to be true and here’s why

One of the most difficult things for us to understand from our mortal perspective is that for God, all that is, was, and is to come has already occurred. He isn’t living our daily lives with us in the way that we are. As the old saying goes, God’s time is not our time. It is not that He has already chosen our paths, but rather, He has seen what choices we will make and has already created the paths that will lead us back to Him. His work is done.

Yep. I can hear those little wheels spinning. You’re thinking, so if everything is already done, why do we have to be restored to God at all? Why put myself through all of the hard work if the end is already determined?

While it may not sound like it, this is actually the best part.

God did that for us.

God could have created us so we would not fail. He could have created us so that we never had a relationship with Him. He could have created us in such a way that we would never realize what love is and be able to grasp all the wonders that surround us.

He didn’t do this, but instead, created us so that we do fail and have to pick ourselves back up and try again. He created us so that we can understand the glorious ache that is love as well as the stabbing pain of loss. He created a desire in our hearts to come to understand our distance from Him, what it was that separated us from Him, and the desire to be restored to a place of community with Him. And then in His great mercy,  gave US the tools we need to work on that rough exterior so we could start to see  what He alrework on youady sees – that beneath all of the dirt and ugliness is something truly beautiful.

We are God’s diamonds in the rough. Our soul is a precious gem that is waiting be revealed to the world. It is our job to recognize the good “bones” of our being and begin the work of restoration in ourselves because only in doing the work ourselves will we fully understand the degree to which we kept ourselves hidden from God and then realize the true beauty that He created.