The Honest Faith: The Truth Will Set You Free

Last week I wrote about “Annoying Christianity”. I was surprised that there were only a few comments that were not really on the same page that I was. One told me to repent. I’m not quite sure what I need to repent from. I mean maybe I need to repent from going into “Christian” book stores anymore. That I can do. I’ll turn away from them anytime I see them. So I wanted to follow up. I wanted to find out how we can be better. How can we turn this around so that Christianity isn’t struggling with this PR problem anymore? So again, I asked Facebook, in a few different places, “How can we be better?” I got a lot of feedback. But there was an overall theme within them “Authenticity and Love”. I had a wonderful response from a person in my denominational facebook group that I wanted to share:

We stop being annoying when we stop being dishonest about how hard it is to be a human being.We have to start being honest about not only our individual struggles but our struggles as a church, to overcome all kinds of things such as our own racism, sexism, classism, ableism, etc. We have to be vulnerable, as individuals and as a church. Own up to our mistakes, ask forgiveness, and then work to repair the breach.

They went on to discuss nationalism in the response (which I think I called out well enough last week), but I think this first paragraph hits the nail on the head. They said it so beautifully and simply. It’s hard for me to add more to it, but I’m a writer so that’s what I’m going to do. My fellow Christian writer Chris Kratzer published a post earlier this week entitled, “The Apology Every White Christian Needs To Give To Black America, Now.” In the article, he is very honest about his position. He apologizes for his conscious and unconscious decisions that took advantage of his privilege, not just as a white person, but as a male and a pastor. He owned up to it. Which was beautiful. It is a very moving piece, I recommend you read it. Maybe after you finish this one?

What is it with our tenuous relationship with truth? Why is it so hard for us to be honest about our faith, shortcomings, doubts, or whatever? It is like we fell in love with this picture of 1950’s America (read: USA) that never existed and decided that is what the church needed to be. As if every church building across the globe needed to be a copy of the Cleaver household. So we started fibbing to each other. Pretending that our lives were just like that. Much like 1950’s America, we have fallen to those same shortcomings. We’ve become obsessed with stuff, image, silent or vocal racism, sexism, classism, and so on. We’ve “left it to Beaver” and went on pretending.

So what now? How do we come back? Well, I think as my responses put it, we need to be honest and love. We need to embrace the truth that we are all humans. How did Saint Paul put it? “All have fallen short”? Guess what! Nobody is perfect, and that’s okay! We aren’t supposed to be. This isn’t an episode of late 1950’s tv. If anything our lives can be more equated to an episode of Game of Thrones, where nobody is blameless, everyone dies, and frozen zombies are coming. Wait, maybe not that last part. I know it’s been thrown around many times before and some of you maybe have seen it in some church function. I admit I used it in youth group more than once. There is a TED talk from Brene Brown where she talks about the Power of Vulnerability. In it, she talks about how those who are the most open, and honest are the ones who feel love more. It’s strange to think that those who may feel the most unloved can feel the most love when they admit to the fact that they feel unloved. We left that somewhere. Maybe we left it in the 1950’s. Wasn’t that what the church was supposed to be. A place where people could be completely and uniquely themselves without fear of judgment, oppression, or hate?

I think we want to believe that being good and quiet, and just going with the flow makes a good Christian. We don’t want to admit it. We don’t want to question it because it’s comfortable. You don’t have to do anything that way. You just have to give up an hour of your time maybe 10% of your income once a week and that’s it. Not so hard right? That is all being a Christian is, correct? I’m very sorry to have to tell you this, but the truth is Jesus said, “Take up your Cross and follow me”. Jesus didn’t promise us a comfy life. Jesus promised it would be hard. We would stand against some power structures. We were going to suffer and possibly die for this message. We did for a while. Until we lost our honesty. Maybe it was the 1850’s? Still looking for it. Jesus stood up to the injustice, greed, corruption, racism, and all manner of horrid things throughout His life. We were supposed to follow him. He made political statements all the time. You know that whole thing with Legion and the pigs? Yeah, that was one big political statement all about Rome and driving them back into the ocean from whence they came. Speaking against these things isn’t comfortable. It isn’t the easy thing to do. Being honest with yourself and your struggles is hard. Owning your faults is difficult. Because all we’ve been shown is that we will receive judgment and scorn for that. But guess what, that’s not the gospel.

The Gospel is and always has been that GOD LOVES EVERYONE! It doesn’t matter. There is nothing you can do to earn that love, there is nothing you can do to lose it. You don’t have to go to church to get it. You don’t have to give 10% of your income to get it. You have to open up and be honest with yourself. You gotta be just who you are because that is who God loves. The Divine is just waiting for you to realize this so that the Divine may delight in you.

I often times think this is what made us so annoying. We lost sight of that. We put up hoops and hurdles because we thought, you know what, this isn’t fair. I’ve worked so hard for God’s love, and the next guy who walks in the door didn’t do anything and he get’s God’s love. Or maybe because we didn’t want to do anything with it. Maybe we got comfortable with God’s love and said well I got mine. So we got lazy and did nothing, forgetting the second part of that message, go share the love. I really enjoyed the show “Key & Peele”. They did a sketch about a prayer group where God showed up. I find it very hilarious because I think that is very much what we have done as a church. I’ve included it below if you want to have a watch. What if God showed up? Would the Divine be shaking its proverbial head at us, or would it be pleased?

So the message is this. We need to let the truth set us free. We need to be authentically ourselves and love others for being authentically themselves. This means that nobody is better than the other. Nobody deserves more than the other. We are all equal partners in this thing we call life. So let’s live it authentically, vulnerable, and filled with love. Let’s stop pretending to “Leave it to Beaver” and start honestly living in love. Because, yes, we are all sinners, but who cares? God doesn’t, that was already taken care of 2000 years ago. Should we go on living hurtful ways? No! We gotta love each other the best we can! So go and spread the love. Because after all, You are not alone! YOU MATTER! YOU ARE LOVED JUST AS YOU ARE!

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The Story of Esperanza Reyes: Chapter 3

Chapter 3

In 1980 Ronald Regan became president of the United States. There was fear that he would crack down on immigrants who were in the country without proper documentation. For both Maria and Jose that meant their entire families were in fear of this. Both families made the decision to go back to Mexico for a time to wait out what was to come and see if it was safe to come back. During this time Jose and Maria decided to go to San Antonio to find work. They would support their families the best that they could.

During the time that Maria was in Kerrville with Isabella, Jose had been stressed about the news he received from Maria. She was going to have a child, that wasn’t his, they had never been together in that way. They were saving themselves for marriage after all. He was a kind man with a good heart though. He wouldn’t break up with her even though he didn’t fully believe the story she told him.  He needed to know the truth before he broke up with her. One night as he was considering all of this he fell asleep. He dreamt a man in linen was standing on the left side of his bed. The man spoke, “Jose, son of Yeshua ben-Yoseph, don’t worry about the story. Maria wouldn’t lie to you. She will have a daughter, and you will name her Esperanza for she will give her people hope.” Jose woke with a start. He was terrified, but oddly comforted by the dream.

While Jose and Maria were in San Antonio looking for work, Maria was 38 weeks pregnant. During this time they continued to look for housing, but could not afford anything. They ended up sleeping in their car parked behind a 24-hour department store. Maria went into labor, they did not want to go to a hospital for fear of the bills that may be incurred. Maria gave birth to a daughter in the back seat of their car out by the dumpsters behind the mega store. She wrapped her in old, but clean towels and held her daughter close.

Not too far from the mega store was a Rest area. There were many truck drivers who used this area to rest at night. Suddenly, a great light sprung up from the middle of the rest area. The drivers were terrified and jumped out of the trucks to see what was going on. They could barely see through the light, but there was a figure in the midst. The figure spoke, “Don’t be afraid. I have good news for you! Not too far from here, a child was born. This child is the chosen one! This child has come so that her people may have hope. You will know the child and family when you see them. They are behind the mega store, in the back of a dark brown Ford Fairmount.” Suddenly, the light intensified, many other figures appeared in the midst of them. A beautiful heavenly song burst forth. “Honor and Glory to the Divine who is above all things. May the Divine now bring peace and hope!” Just as quickly as it all started the light disappeared. After the trucker’s eyes cleared, “Let’s go see this baby.” They climbed in their trucks and found the family just as the figure said. They stayed the night there looking after the family.

At the same time, astrologists in Florida had seen a new sign in the sky. This sign declared that a child had been born that would bring people hope. The sign was centered over Texas. After months of studying the sign, the astrologists began to make calls to the governor and the authorities in Texas. Many dismissed them, but a member of the governor’s cabinet believed in astrology. That person took the call. When they did they discovered the astrologists were looking for the chosen one baby who would be in their state, that this baby would be a leader of people. The staff member believed this to be a political threat and quickly relayed the information to the governor. The astrologists decided to travel to Texas to find the child for themselves. At the time they arrived, Maria and Jose were living in a very small but cozy apartment in the outskirts of town that they barely could afford. The sign appeared to indicate that the child was there. The astrologists brought gifts to the child of money, toys, and furniture. When one of the astrologists had received word that the governor’s office had been calling back in Florida, they decided to return.

All of this was greatly overwhelming to Maria and Jose, but Maria saw the good in it all. She kept these memories close to her heart and cherished the gifts given to them by the truckers and the astrologists. These helped the family greatly. After eight days the family went to a priest to have the b’rit chayim ceremony to welcome Esperanza. She was given the name Esperanza. During the service, an old man named Simon approached them. He was a man who was always at that church, and attended every service that they had. He had asked if he could hold the child, the family looked to the priest who smiled and nodded. Simon held Esperanza and said,
“Divine, I may now come within your full embrace,
I will go peacefully because you kept your promise.
My eyes have seen the freedom you promised,
which will now be dedicated to you.
She will be a light for everyone,
Not just for those who believed.”
Jose and Maria were amazed at what was said about her, and Simon returned the child and blessed them. He turned to Maria and said, ” This little girl will bring power systems down, and raise others. This child will bring out the hope of many people.” Simon’s wife, Anna, took his arm smiled at the family and blessed them as well. She gave thanks to the Divine and proclaimed the great gift of the child.

After the astrologists had returned, the governor began sending out raids from the immigration enforcement authorities in and around San Antonio. Jose had another dream of the man in linen. This time the figure told him to flee to their family in Mexico. They packed up all they could the next morning and drove across the border. Many families with young children were detained and deported across the border. When a new governor was elected, the man in linen came to Jose in a dream again. Telling them it was safe to return to Texas. They had again packed up all that they had and returned to Texas with the whole family. They returned to the hill country of east Texas.

Not much is known about the early childhood of Esperanza. There is a story of when the family had gone to a Passover festival in Houston. They had spent the day with the friends and family enjoying the festivities. On their way back to the hill country in East Texas, Maria and Jose started early thinking that Esperanza was with family. After they arrived at a rest stop and the others arrived shortly thereafter they discovered that Esperanza had been left behind. This, of course, set Maria and Jose into a bit of a tailspin of fear and worry. They returned very quickly to Houston where the festival had been. They found Esperanza with the Rabbi’s and Priests, talking to them and asking them questions. She had garnered a lot of attention from the crowd because of the level of questions she was asking. As soon as her parents found her, they exclaimed and ran to her. “Why did you wander off?” Maria asked exasperatedly. Maria just said, “I didn’t wander off. I’m with my people.” The family returned to the hill country after. This story was so dear to Maria. Esperanza grew in spirit and wisdom. She became a very respected priest in her own right.

< Chapter 2   |  Chapter 4 >

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The Honest Faith: Annoying Christianity

For this post, I invite you to take a step back. Don’t consider yourself Christian. Don’t consider yourself anything. Take a step back from your life. Let go of all your tightly held beliefs and just be. Read with an open mind. Don’t take offense, because what will be said isn’t about you. You aren’t these things. You can look back on things that the person who was you did and examine them through this lens, however, you aren’t that person anymore. What you do moving forward is completely up to you. You are the one who decides what to do with the time that is given to you moving forward. With all of that being said, I’m about to talk about some rather controversial things. I know I said I would try to stay away from these, but I can’t remain silent any longer. So breathe. Sit. Take a moment. Then read on.

This week I saw another Christian Blogger post an article about the 4 reasons people find Christians annoying. Look beyond the pop-up there, on the list of things I find annoying about bloggers. So I was inspired to ask my facebook friends the same question he asked, “What do you find the most annoying about Christians?”. Surprisingly, or maybe not so much, this was one of the most responded to posts on my wall in the last few months. I got a wide variety of answers to the question, but I was struck by an overwhelming thought. Christians are annoying. The truth of the matter is, whether you claim to be one or not, the idea of Christianity has become so overwhelmed by this sickeningly sweet saccharine message that has nothing to do with the true gospel anymore that nobody wants it. Christianity has become that gross Halloween candy that nobody really wants, yet gets handed out every year and sits at the bottom of bags and buckets until you are getting ready for the next round of Trick-or-Treating. It ends up being tried and spit out immediately, or just tossed in the trash altogether.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t some great churches out there doing some amazing things. I’m saying in general Christianity has gotten painted with the annoying brush. Somewhere along the way in our cracks and divisions a new message took root and sprouted up. One that demanded more attention, and drove the divisions even deeper. It was a message of power, wealth, and appearances. Christianity, somewhere along the line, went from a group of outcasts, nobodies, losers, sinners, gluttons, drunkards, prostitutes, and scum to Stepford wife. Honestly, take a step back and look. Is this not true?

It’s no wonder people are leaving the church. It’s no wonder that this message of perfection is turning people off. It is not obtainable. When you have those who profess to be christian (Small c on purpose) and saying all kinds of nonsense is ordained by god, or that god favors ‘fire and fury’, people don’t want to have anything to do with that god. That is not the Divine of the Christian Bible. That is not the Divine of any major world religion. That is some odd image of Ares (Greek god of war) or something. When did we begin to worship morality, being right, being superior, holier than thou, or even this book we claim is the “WORD OF GOD”. I’m sorry, but it is a book. It was written by human beings in a certain time, to a certain people, and the language used to write most of it isn’t even spoken anymore. The Word that is talked about in that book is Jesus, the God-man. Not the book itself. It’s no wonder people see Christians as morons, we can’t even read our book right.

To be perfectly Honest, for a long time I’ve felt this way. I even worked for the church. But I couldn’t stand the platitudes we threw around at each other. I couldn’t stand Christian book stores, a whole other story for another day. I would feel nauseous when I had to say something like ask Jesus into your heart, or have a relationship with him. Because those phrases have become so over used, they are completely devoid of meaning anymore. A true and honest relationship with the Divine comes not from buying a cross with an American flag emblazoned on it, sorry I just threw up a little. A true relationship with the Divine does not come about by being a good American even. (seriously who thinks that?) Or any number of things that don’t make any sense whatsoever when you hold them up to the real Gospel.

I was going to write about how Christians can be less annoying. But there is a part of me that feels that modern christianity (notice the small c) is beyond repair. As I took a step back myself I noticed there was a lot of this prevalent in our culture. We haven’t been counter culture since the Spanish Inquisition. Maybe it was the moment that the Roman Empire adopted Christianity as its official religion. Maybe it was even back before that. Maybe when we started dictating culture rather than living our lives, maybe that is when we lost our way. But, when it comes right down to it, there is hope. I have seen some truly remarkable things done in the name of the true Divine. I have seen people stand up and say, “No, God does not hate anybody. God loves EVERY-ONE!” I have seen the true Gospel being lived out. Most of the time I’ve seen it, I saw it outside the doors of a church.

Really, I could rant and rave for a long time about what is wrong with modern christianity. I could, but I won’t. Because you know the problems too. You’ve seen them yourself. Sometimes you deny it. Most of the time you just accept it, because what can you do really? Some of you have left the church over those things, if you have I want you to know you aren’t alone, and I’d love to hear your story and support you. I know that you still want to follow Jesus. You still love that there was this man who did speak out against political powers, and religious leaders of His day. Maybe you feel powerless to do anything about it, but the truth is the only power that people have over you is the power you give to them.

True Christianity isn’t dying, but it certainly has a brand problem. The hospital for the spiritually infirmed needs a new PR person. This word Christianity among the populous is now more synonymous with Hypocrite, judge-y, and annoying than the true gospel message. The true message, in case you forgot, is that God loves everyone no matter what. That doesn’t mean just the perfect, morally upstanding, rich, or whatever. It means EVERYONE. You, me, the guy on the corner, that one crazy guy on tv that says god caused natural disasters for some reason or another, the gay person at work, the trans person that you don’t understand, the one lady who needs to pull her life together, that one person who is yelling at the customer service rep for some silly reason, and on and on. GOD LOVES EVERYONE. There is no exception.

The moment we start locking the doors to Heaven, because of one reason or another, is the moment we started worshiping idols. The moment we stopped helping people is the moment we became annoying and hurtful. The message is about love, kindness, and acceptance for all people. Not just the lovely, rich, clean, or whatever. So the take away from this today is to take a good hard look at ourselves, and ask are we living the true Gospel? Or would we rather hold on to our hate for the other? Are we loving all people as God loves them? Or are we bent on revenge that isn’t rightfully ours anyway? Are we annoying, or helpful? True Christianity isn’t dying, it’s always been there in the dirt with the filth getting it’s hands dirty helping all people. So if you feel alone because of the fake ones, don’t. You are not alone. You matter!

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The Story of Esperanza Reyes: Chapter 2

Chapter 2

2000 years ago a man named Yeshua ben-Yosef lived in the Isreal, some believed him to be the Messiah, others did not. There were stories told of the man, but he often refused the title of Messiah. He lead a reformation of the Jewish religion. This reformation gained power and caused a schism very quickly. This new branch of Judaism was named for their leader and was later changed by many different languages, but is now known as Jesuits. Due to its fast growth and far reaching influence, the Roman Empire took notice. The religious leaders of Judaism of that time took notice as well. They did not particularly like the teachings of Yeshua ben-Yosef. His teachings threatened their power structures over the people. His message of freedom, kindness, and love was the main reason why this new movement caught fire.

Yeshua lived a long life. He turned the course of history, though it seems, humans always find a way to co-opt a leaders message and turn it into something that suits their own needs. The Roman Empire did such a thing after a few hundred years or so, the Jesuits could not be ignored any longer. Their power and influence had spread so far and wide it was the dominant religion of the Roman Empire. The leaders of Rome had a dilemma, fight this new religion or co-opt it for their own purposes. They chose the later. The Jesuit religion was then set forward as the official religion of the now ‘Holy’ Roman Empire. A grand synagogue was built in the center of Rome as a symbol of the Empire’s devotion to this idea. Monotheistic Judaism was now the dominant religion of the world.

As humans do, they began twisting and using the message to harm each other. This lead to many wars over religion and territory over the years. One of Yeshua’s followers Simon, who he referred to as Petras, or as we know him, Peter was named as Yeshua’s successor. He was the one whom the organization of the followers fell upon. He named other Rabbis, following him, very many from that point until now. These Rabbi, known as HaAv, were looked to for blessing or dismissing said wars or divisions. This power, as so often does, corrupted some and uplifted others. The most notable wars throughout history were the crusades. These were attempts to take back Isreal from another religious people. These were seen as the major split away from traditional and orthodox Judaism. There were many wars that were caused by infighting as well within the Jesuits. These even spread across many nations. The most notable of which was the second great war. Where many horrific acts were committed against other religious people in the supposed name of the Jesuit god. Of course, this is not to say the religion itself was responsible. Just as a course to say that, as things often do, messages get twisted and used to hurt others. The religious are not the only people responsible for doing such things.

The Jesuits used the emerging language as their own. It was easier to spread the message in the common tongue of the day. Latin became the official language of the Jesuit religion. In fact, their temples were called Iglesias, or as we now know them churches. This came from the common worship gatherings in Roman society. Many Romanic terms and words were used for this new religion. In the common era year 1959 HaAv John the 23rd called a council to the holy city of Rome. It was the second time such a council was convened. It was named for the holy synagogue which was called Ir Gibeah, or in English “the city on a hill”. In the second Ir Gibeahan Council, HaAv cleared up many doctrinal issues and began to allow services to be done in the native tongues of the people. This helped to solidify the growth and stability of the Jesuit community which came to be known as catholic, or in English, universal.

Now Maria and Jose’s families had both come from refugee families that were displaced several times over two millennia. Both had come originally from the same line. Though during the wars over the vast amount of time that family split and became varied among the local people of the places they ended up. Coincidentally, both the Reyes and Caro families ended up in Mexico. Their families had immigrated to Texas in the last few years looking for a better life. They had met at church and Jose, while being a few years older, was instantly smitten with Maria. They had been a couple for a few years now and were the primary reason why their parents had not gone back to Mexico with the whole family in a while.

The world had grown smaller with the advent of the industrial revolution. People could move a lot faster than they had before, and ideas moved faster than ever. By the time Maria and Jose were in High school there were rumors of the miniaturization of computers and a network that would allow people to communicate near instantaneously. This didn’t become a normal reality until the time Esperanza was in high school, but we’ll get there. The ideas of Yeshua ben-Yoseph were spread faster and warped more than ever.

The reformed religion of the Jesuits went through many transformations over the years. It even had its own schisms and splits over little things. People like Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Wesley, and much more set out to reform certain doctrines but ended up creating splits and separations. This was through no fault of their own, but rather a side effect of the attempts to reform. There were now many different Jesuit-Judaic churches across the globe. All claiming to be the one true religion, all worshiping the same Divine in their own way.

Very quickly the idea of the American Dream got mixed with the concept of love, kindness, and acceptance for all. The splits in the Jesuit faith allowed this message easy saturation within the doctrine and belief. Wealth and its draw were sly attractors. There were some who were explicit in this new message that wealth came to the best Jesuits. There were some who were a bit more covert in their message. By the time Maria was visited by the man in linen, there was one common rule for the western Jesuit religion, wealth.

There were some who realized this and worked to preserve the message of the faith. Some like Zachary, who worked tirelessly due to their love of the Divine and the message that was sent to and through many prophets, priests, and kings. This became an unpopular idea, however. So much so that many were ridiculed or looked down on when they professed this idea. A political game was necessary to sneak the message back into the Jesuit faith. These people were called all sorts of things but their message remained the same; love, kindness, and acceptance for all.

< Chapter 1     |     Chapter 3>

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The Story of Esperanza Reyes

Chapter 1

I have decided to compile a story of Esperanza Reyes as many have undertaken before me. Many were there to see and tell this story as well. It seemed the right time for me to write my version of this tale, having followed this story closely myself for many years. I wanted people to read a relatable account, that they may know the truth of the story for themselves.

In 1979 Bill Clements was governor of Texas. Jimmy Carter was in his last year of the presidency of the United States. There was a priest by the name of Zachary. Zachary was married to Isabella Sacredotes. They were good people. They treated everyone with kindness and love. Though, their lives weren’t without tragedy. They couldn’t have children of their own. They loved others as if they were their own children. They had grown older and had given up on their dream of having a family of their own.

One late Friday afternoon, Zachary was setting up for a church service. He had been praying and decided to have a seat before letting people into the church. He began to doze off. Zachary dreamt. He dreamt that there was a figure up to the left of his pulpit. This frightened Zachary as all of the doors of the church were meant to be locked at this hour. The figure spoke to him. “Do not be afraid, Zachary. We heard your prayers. Isabella is pregnant. She will give birth to a son, and you should name him Juan. Juan will be a great man. He will lead many people. He will bring joy into many people’s lives. He will prepare the way for the one who is to come. He will help people to understand the importance of this one. He will pave the road for those who follow.” Zachary exclaimed to the figure, “How?! I’m too old. Isabella can’t… She’s…” The figure spoke again. “I was sent to bring you the good news. Though, in order for these things to happen. You will not be able to speak until this does come about.” Zachary awoke suddenly.  He looked at his watch. It was fifteen minutes past the hour. He was late to begin the service. He rushed to the front doors and opened up to let the people in. They all looked at him as if he were drunk, but filed into the church regardless. Zachary found he couldn’t speak so he attempted to motion his way through the service. After the service, he went home.

Isabella discovered she was pregnant. She was overjoyed but terrified that something may happen as it had many times before. She withdrew from her usual social circles. She thought, “Divine, please don’t take this one from me. I pray you have forgiven me for whatever it was to make me unable to have children.”

In November of that year Isabella’s cousin Maria, who was eighteen, was sitting on a park bench writing in her journal. Suddenly, a man in a white linen suit appeared just to the left of her. He said, “Hello, gifted one.” Maria was terrified. Who was this man? A man approaching a young girl in a park with an odd greeting did not sit well with her. He spoke again, “I’m sorry, don’t be afraid, Maria. The Divine has chosen you. I have come to give you a message. You will have a daughter, and you will call her Esperanza. She will be amazing and will be called the Daughter of the Divine; She will lead many people. Her legacy will last forever.” Mary was troubled. “How? I am too young to have a child.” She said while inching away. The man spoke again, “The Divine is with you, and you are filled with the Spirit of the Divine; your child will be set apart. Your cousin Isabella is pregnant with a son, and this is her sixth month for a woman who was believed could not conceive. For with the Divine, nothing is impossible.” With that, he turned and left.

Maria quickly returned home. She told her parents what had happened. They were terrified as well and sent her to live with Isabella and Zachary in Kerrville, Texas. When Maria arrived, Juan lept in Isabella’s womb. Isabella just feeling that this was right exclaimed, “Oh gifted one! When you came in the baby leaped for joy. You were sent a message from the Divine as well weren’t you?” Maria was dumbfounded. Maria broke down and wept. She was too young, nobody would believe her, yet here her cousin knew before she even spoke a word. Isabella embraced her cousin. Maria cried on her shoulder. “Isa, how can I do this? I’m only a child. I’m a nobody. Nobody is going to believe me. I don’t even believe this is possible. Jose and I haven’t… Why did the Divine choose me? This Divine who raises up presidents and rulers chooses a poor kid from Texas? The Divine who formed the mountains and makes blessings for the Divine’s people wants me to carry a child into this world? How can you be so sure?” She asked. Isabella reassured Maria, “It is okay, Zach and I support you no matter what. We love you, and if it is the Divine’s will things will work out. It won’t be easy, but we believe in you. You will be able to do this.” Maria took these moments with her cousin. In the three months she remained she grew in strength of heart and character. Maria remained with them until it came time for Isabella to give birth. She didn’t want to be a burden, so she returned home.

It was soon after that Isabella went into labor with her son. Her friends and family heard that she was giving birth and celebrated the birth with her. Eight days after he was born, they held a brit milah for the child. When the mohel asked if he was to be named for his father Zachary, Isabella said, “No, he will be called Juan.” Those gathered said to her, “None of your family have this name, why would you call him Juan?” They gave Zachary a whiteboard on which he wrote, “His name is Juan.” There was a gasp from those gathered. The question still lingered. Suddenly, Zachary could speak again. He exclaimed, “Praise God!” Afterward, word spread quickly throughout the county and surrounding areas of what had happened, for Zachary was a well-known priest. Many wondered what this child would be in life. It was well known that the spirit of the Divine was with this family.

Zachary was filled with the spirit of the Divine, and proclaimed to all saying,
“The Divine is to be thanked,
For the Divine has come to give us life,
The Divine has called us all to freedom,
through a place once thought dead.
The Divine’s words were made known by the masters of faith,
That we would be free, and that we were well loved.
The Divine promised us mercy,
and we remember the promise The Divine gave to our ancestors.
The Divine promised Abraham,
To give us all freedom,
So that we may live without fear, with love and kindness.
In a relationship with The Divine for all our lives.
And to you, my son, You will be called a great leader for The Divine;
For you will prepare the way for the one to come.”

Chapter 2 >

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