The Honest Faith: Definition

Update: I have received feedback that people may interpret that I am saying I am a prophet and that my truth is the objective truth. That was not my intention. My intention was to say, much like prophets of old I am interpreting the patterns and finding what may seem true to me. That like everything else should be weighed and measured with what is perceivable and knowable elsewhere. This is to say, we as human beings are bad at divining truth all the time, so let’s try to err on the side of love for all of creation.

So as not to fall into the standard cliche of writing by starting with what Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines some word as, I’ll let you do the looking. Over the past few weeks, and months I’ve been writing about finding my way to the real definition of my faith. I’ve encountered some resistance, I’ve even felt very alone in my quest. I’ve had those who tried to tell me my struggle was of my own making, I don’t listen to those voices anymore. I’m struck by how the search for clarity has become a taboo or even offensive proposition. When did truth become an expletive?

We’ve all read and shared articles about “Fake” and misleading news becoming a trend. We’ve participated in the virality of works that added to the echo chamber of our own opinion. We are all guilty of the sin of not listening to opposing voices. Now I’m not saying that blocking or not listening to the voices that attack you is a sin. Not at all. That is a bit of self-preservation because after all, you matter. I’m saying the purposeful, and blatant pushing aside actual conversation so as to prove one’s point. The ignoring of opposing views so as to remain in one’s own protected reality. I would think many could accuse me of doing such, however, I do invite conversation and opposing views when they are presented in a manner that is constructive and without ill intent. If you have seen the difference, you know the difference. Though we have all been guilty of this, even me.

I’ve written before about how I am interested in the evolution of words and language. I find it interesting how when a word is used to mean a different thing than its original meaning that it doesn’t evolve right away. It is with constant use and reinforcing of that words new meaning that it evolves into that meaning. Take the word prophecy, for instance. It is just meant to mean the utterance of a prophet. A prophet is more often than not, a trusted religious advisor who seems to be able to see what a Divine being has going on for certain things. What is interesting is that you have prophets throughout history who disagree with each other. Even in the bible, you have contradictory prophets and prophecies. Many times it is over what should or should not be done in the case of national matters. Yet, recently, the word prophecy has come to have another definition which makes it synonymous with “Fortune Telling”. Which has, in turn, evolved prophets into this idea of sooth sayers and predictors of future events. I use this as my example because I had a great Professor in college who taught a class on the prophetic books of the Christian Bible. In his very first class, he had the lights turned off and the shades were drawn. He had candles lighting the front of the classroom, with new age music playing in the background and a crystal ball adorning his desk. He came in and started drawing lines on the whiteboard which made him look like Charlie Day in that Meme that has become popular. This was all build up for him to say, false. These prophecies were not spoken or written to tell the future, but we interpreted them as such because we view them through the lens of the future. Some happened, others didn’t yet they were speaking to a certain time, to a certain people, and were not meaning forward looking except maybe by a few years.

I loved that class. It was one of my favorites in college because it taught me more about exegesis than most of my other Bible courses. I learned how to read a prophecy within the historical context, and how that could be used later to believe it was future telling. Granted, from my upbringing I have always thought fortune tellers were a bunch of hogwash and occultism. I wanted to be a prophet myself, though I didn’t know what that really meant. I wanted to interpret what God had for the world and be the ‘Holy’ equivalent for those future tellers. For some reason that was not hogwash? I wanted to be the Gandalf the White Wizard of modern Christianity. Needless to say, I think I did become a prophet, however, it was nothing like I thought.

Prophecy was about divining definition from the patterns of everything around us to speak truth to a situation. Though, what I didn’t realize was that people don’t like the truth. The truth may set you free, but it is also painful to realize how wrong you may have been. Prophecy was not sooth saying, but rather truth saying. It was due to this that many prophets met with horrible ends. They suffered many atrocities for the truth that they spoke. Some spoke for kings and rulers, some spoke against kings and rulers. All spoke up when they saw wrong happening. All suffered in order to prevent wrong from continuing. I tried and still do try to speak truth to power. I still see part of my duty is to prophesy about those wrongs that I see happening.

I use this in my example of definition because we have developed the inability to listen to the truth. We keep waiting for a supernatural occurrence, pattern or sign to show us what the truth is, instead of listening to those who may speak it around us. Not that I’m always speaking the truth, I fail a lot. I’m a human being. It happens. Though if you notice none of the prophets was anything more than human. They just interpreted patterns. Some of them got some things right, all failed from time to time. They were human. It happens. We attributed a higher meaning to their words or actions because we viewed them through the lens of the future. (short aside, Nostradamus I think was just a crazy guy who saw some wild patterns that happened to get some things right) Truth can come from anywhere and anything. Some people see patterns differently than others. Many studies for years and years to be able to interpret certain patterns, like weather, science, and astrophysics. Those people are experts for a reason, they studied past patterns and what they meant. So they are able to say with certainty what future patterns would result from current trends. I don’t mean to equate scientists with prophets, just saying that they have more right to speak truth to situations such as massive hurricanes and the cause of them rather than fortune tellers and diviners.

I saw a lot of diviners being given credence recently. In the American continent, we have suffered 4 major natural disasters in as many weeks. 3 Hurricanes and a massive earthquake. Diviners have been saying these are signs from god that the end is here, or that we are being punished for some contrived slight against an assumed moral code. These have been a bit displeasing to me as the evidence clearly points to climate change being a factor for these things happening. Now, sure they could still be signs of such things, but ultimately I think we should take the much bigger hint that we haven’t been great stewards of the earth. That is a much more evident pattern. We ignore what is right in front of us in order to divine a much greater and supernatural meaning to aid us in our complacency? Can there not also be an admittance that you haven’t been that great in taking care of the environment? Can you not also see that climate change is a thing? How is this symbolic message more important than a commandment we received in writing, to use the scripture you so often like to reference? I’m not asking you to go out and wrap your arms around a tree. I’m asking you to take a look at whether or not you’ve been a good steward and what you can do better. That’s simple.

The way we define things is important because we give meaning. As much as we like or dislike something we participate in the act of evolving a word, phrase, statement, or even the way we interpret patterns from the world around us. Those definitions and meanings are important because they can either be used to give life or take it away. We can either help or hurt those around us with what we say and do. We can either contribute to making someone feel alone and like they don’t matter, or we can help with spreading the good news that they are not alone and that they matter. Speaking of which, You reader, are not alone. You matter!

The Story of Esperanza Reyes: Chapter 7

Chapter 7

One fall Sunday afternoon, Esperanza and her group were at a park. They were grilling hot dogs and hamburgers. There was plenty of food and drink for all. Everyone was having a wonderful time. A rabbi and a priest happened by and called Esperanza out from the group to talk to her.

They asked her, “Your friends are drinking on a Sunday, what if someone comes by and takes a picture of that?” She turned and asked them, “Are you more concerned for my friends, or for how they appear? Did you ever read that story about how David was in need and hungry? How did it appear when he and his friends ate the bread that only the Priests were allowed to eat? The weekend was made for human beings to not worry about appearances or anything else but to take time to relax. I suggest you do the same.” She turned and returned to her friends.

On another Sunday, Esperanza was teaching in a large Synagogue in San Antonio. There was a man there who had crippling arthritis. Both hands were worn and shriveled. The priests and rabbi watched her, to see if she would heal the man. They watched her, to see if she made the whole service about her supernatural healing gifts. Esperanza noticed them watching her intently. She looked at the man their eyes kept darting to and she invited him to stand where he was. She turned and looked at the priests and rabbi, “Is it against your religion to stop a service and help someone who is in need? Is it better to go on with the service and let someone suffer, or is it better to stop and help?” They stared back in silence. She turned to the man and asked him to stretch out his hands. As he did the bones set back into place and he bent his fingers without pain for the first time in years. The priests and rabbis left in a big show of storming out, mumbling to themselves about what had just happened and how to destroy her credibility.

After the service, many came from all over Texas to be healed. Esperanza had Peter ready the truck so she may stand in the bed and not be crowded by those that had gathered. She healed all that she could. She talked with each of them until late into the night. Many came seeking healing and someone to notice them. She noticed them all. She saw them right where they were. She saw beyond the masks they wore and disguises they put up to keep others out. She healed not just the physical, but the spiritual and emotional pain as well.

After such a day, she retreated to the hill country. She needed time alone to heal herself. When she returned, she met with those she called friends, who had followed her and become her closest allies. There was Simon who she called Peter, Andres his brother, Iago and his husband John, Philip and Natalie, Levi, Thomas, Jaymee the daughter of Alfredo Jimenez, Sara who was very knowledgeable about religion and texts, Jessica who was Iago and John’s adopted daughter, and Jaime who was the the one who turned Esperanza in.

As Esperanza’s story went more and more viral, more and more people came to hear her speak. She had to start holding lessons in large auditoriums and convention centers. She would always take the time to sit and talk with those who came, though. Her friends would feed them and take care of those who gathered. One particular Sunday, she gave this lesson:

Great are the poor,
for they own the kingdom of the Divine.

Great are they who weep,
because they understand what it is to suffer.

Great are the meek,
because they will be the great leaders of the Earth.

Great are they that study,
because they will understand that which needs understanding.

Great are the merciful,
because they themselves will recieve it in kind.

Great are those who love and care for others,
for in them is the face of the Divine.

Great are those who make peace,
because they are truly the children of the Divine.

Great are those who get put down or beaten up for doing the right thing,
because they know what the Divine really wants.

Great are you when you encounter difficult times for doing the right thing,
don’t worry about such things because you did what was right and good. Many people will say and do horrible things to you, but don’t stop doing what is right. Love even those who do such things, be kind to them who hate you. When they go low, take the high road. It will show them that you are human, and thus you should be treated. If you only love those who love you, how does that make a difference? If you only give to those who have “earned it”, how has that made a difference? Love your enemies, be kind, and give freely expecting nothing in return. That will show that you are one with the Divine. Be merciful, even as the Divine is merciful.

Don’t judge people. Don’t condemn people without knowing them. Forgive people. Give freely! Why do you want to judge people without knowing them or even yourself at all! How can you judge someone when you have so much wrong with yourself as well? Work on your own faults, and don’t worry about what other people are working on.

Do good! Be known for doing good! For a good tree gives good fruit. So should you give good things. Be the apple tree of good. Give good apples to all who need of them. The good person out of good treasure of his heart produces good. Everyone who does good to his fellow man is strong and can weather anything.

But to you who are rich, you have already won your prize.

To you who have eaten your fill, you will be hungry one day.

To you who laugh at others, you will suffer one day.

To you who appear to have it all together, watch out because the truth will come out.

You who injure those who do the right thing, who do good, you are shaky at best. You can’t weather the storms that are coming. When you are in need it is these who will be the ones who help you, they will not turn you away like you did to them. So get it together. You only claim to do good to appear good. If you have no intention of being good, why do you pretend? When we are with the Divine many of you will say that you were good and were kind and loving, yet you be found lacking a single good deed.

After this lesson, Esperanza again spoke with many, healed many, and was present with all who wished her company. In early evening Esperanza and her group returned to Leakey to again stay at Peter’s house.

<  Chapter 6  |  Chapter 8  >

The Honest Faith: Old God or New God

If you haven’t read Neil Gaiman’s book “American Gods”, or even turned on a television in years, or watched any movies in the last few years, you probably aren’t familiar with this trope that is developing. There is a story concept that is making its way into media now where gods battle each other. They pit the old gods (usually the protagonists) against the new gods (usually the antagonist). This also dominates stories that you may not have thought of in that way. This is where many superhero movies are going now, with Civil War, Batman v Superman, Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2, Wonder Woman, to a lesser extent Spiderman: homecoming, and so on using this trope. The difference in Gaiman’s work is that he does what only Gaiman can, he incorporates the importance of story into the tale.

Story in itself is extremely important. It is how human beings communicate. We tell a story with everything that we do. Sometimes our actions tell a truer story than our words could ever do. Sometimes we are better with words than actions. That is why some of us write. I know that I am not especially great at writing, but I do what I can. I write how I speak, and to me that makes sense. That is primarily why I started recording the audio versions of this blog. Our stories are what unite us as people. Countries and kingdoms have formed around a united story. Ours formed around a story of freedom from misrepresentation. Christian’s have a unified story of following the God-man Jesus. There are differences in that story for many which is why there are so many different churches. Everything tells a story.

The context of a story is also very important. For instance, I can say “Jack ran”. Great, that could mean any number of things. Jack could be really into fitness. Jack could be trying to get back into shape. Jack could be running for the hell of it. Jack could be chased by something. Jack could be metaphorically running away from his problems. Jack could be running to catch a plane, train, taxi, car, bus, or a piece of paper that flew away from him. Why is Jack running? In my imagination, Jack is running from a bear, silly Jack.  Even then there would be more to the story. Where did Jack encounter the bear? Why is Jack silly? Does he not know what to do when encountering a bear? Do you know what to do when encountering a bear? How has your experience shaped what you thought Jack was doing when he was running?

In school, I learned the difference between two words. First, eisegesis which is the process of interpreting a text or portion of text in such a way that the process introduces one’s own presuppositions, agendas, or biases into and onto the text. Second, exegesis which is a critical explanation or interpretation of a text, particularly a religious text. When I was in those classes, even though I was in college, it sounded like they were different names for Jesus. Like Superman and bizarro-Superman; Iso-Jesus, the equalizer Jesus, and Exo-Jesus, the outsider Jesus. The more I learned the more I discovered how much I was taught to eisegete Scripture rather than exegete. I read what I wanted to read, not what the author had intended. I realized I had elevated the Bible to Godlike status and was subconsciously worshiping a quaternity; the Bible, God the parent, Jesus, and the holy spirit. I realized that some of the passages I had memorized meant something completely different than what I was using them for. This was early in my college career and it made me never want to study anymore for fear that I would lose my faith. The funny thing is, the more I learned the more it deepened my faith.

I have been accused recently of being hateful. There is a problem in that. I don’t carry hate for anything except for injustice, greed, and evil. I will admit to the fact that I am angry. However, anger does not equate to hate. I am angry at actions that are being committed in the Divine’s name. I’m angry that people are supporting those who claim to be champions for the Divine, yet only worship themselves or Mammon. I wrote a political post last week. I wrote it because I was angry. I still am. I can’t stand to see others wallowing in hate for other people, and creations. It does make me mad, as it made Jesus mad. There is a whole story about turning over tables remember? Oh yeah, and God has a weird thing about figs. People have tried to say that I am the one who is bringing hate to the table. Nope, that’s not my story. I’m angry. I’m angry at the injustice, greed, corruption, and evil that I am seeing being allowed to take root in the story of our country and faith.

My fascination with the old god vs. new god trope is that I’m seeing it play out in reality as well. If you take a good look at any religion you see these distorted new gods popping up. In Christianity, you see this new version of Jesus that I’ve talked about in the last few weeks. This new Jesus is more the son of Mammon than of the Divine. This new Jesus is the Exo-Jesus, not that he is one with the outsiders, but that he is outside the Bible. This is the Jesus with long conditioned hair, a beauty pageant sash, holding a lamb, and looks like he is about to attend a Phish concert. The irony of Exo-Jesus is that he was created by eisegesis. People read into the Bible what they wanted to read. They made passages fit their worldview and twisted sense of morality. This Jesus hated the sins that made these people feel dirty and so they made Jesus in their image.

On the other hand, you have Iso-Jesus. He is the great equalizer. I found him while I was doing exegesis of the gospels. He fought against power systems. He loved people. He wouldn’t exclude them because he thought they were icky due to a sin He didn’t understand. He didn’t care about sin. The ones he cared about were things that kept you from loving or caring about people. I’ve been asking you to read my work without adding yourself into it. I invite you to re-read the gospels. This time do it without adding yourself into the story. It’s tough. Maybe you’ll find this Iso-Jesus. Maybe I found him because I did read a bit of what I wanted to read, I hope not though.

If you haven’t noticed, I’ve been trying to write a story to make the Gospels understandable. I kept it quiet because I didn’t want people calling me a heretic, or trying to burn me at the stake due to writing it. Mainly I’ve been writing the Messiah as a woman, and a Mexican-American in modern day Texas. I’ve been doing this because I want to have a story that is easier to understand in today’s world. I want to show what Iso-Jesus looks like to me and maybe, just maybe, I can somehow see the old God win over this new god through it. I know it’s something that has been done before, but it was a story I needed to tell. If you haven’t started it, start it, and let me know what you think. You can find the Story of Esperanza here.

Maybe I’m reading too much into things. Maybe I’m angry over perceived slights. I could be, but honestly, I want to err on the side of love. I’d rather be angry over injustices that don’t exist, rather than pretend they aren’t there if they do exist. I used the design I made as my featured image this week because it is my story in one picture. It is the reason I love both the story of Quetzalcoatl and the story of Jesus. They both spilled blood for humanity out of their love for them. They are the old gods of my ancestors on both sides of my family. Quetzalcoatl is actually my birth deity in Aztec tradition. I was baptized as a Christian after my birth as well. Both are a part of my ancestry. Both are stories that I want to be told of my life. That I loved people so much I was willing to even to give my own life. What do you want to be said of you? What stories make you who you are? Do you follow Exo-Jesus or Iso-Jesus? Whatever your answers are, I want you to know that you are not alone, you matter!

The Story of Esperanza Reyes: Chapter 6

Chapter 6

After word had spread about Esperanza she became a sensation. People would come from all over just to hear her speak. There was one time in Leakey, that the crowd had become so large that Esperanza was forced to find some place to stand just so that she could be heard. She climbed on the back of a pickup truck for the nearby construction company. She asked the owner of the truck to pull out a little, and she taught the crowd from the back of a pick-up truck.

After she was done with her lessons she walked around to the side of the truck and spoke to the owner and his passenger. “Thank you so much for allowing me to use your truck. In return, I know of a plot of land that is looking for a contractor to build a building just on the other side of that wall over there.” They looked at her incredulously, “We just got fired from this very construction site, and you say there is another on the other side of the wall?” Simon and Andres got out of the truck and the three of them walked around the wall together. They saw there was a large sign advertising a condominium complex being built. The owner of the plot of land was just beside the sign looking at the grounds. Simon introduced himself and struck up a conversation with the owner. They worked out a contract for well more than they were being paid for the previous job. When Simon returned to Esperanza and Andres, his face was flush. “I don’t know how you knew, or how that happened, but thank you. I am not worthy to even shake your hand.” She just smiled and said, “Follow me.”

She walked back with the men around the wall. Two more of Simon’s construction crew were still there, Iago and his husband John. Iago and John were known as the sons of thunder for their loud boisterous personalities. Simon loudly exclaimed to the group, “Come, we are buying this amazing person a beer tonight!” They all loaded up the equipment and headed off to drop it off at the company lot and return to the pub.

At the pub, Esperanza was having a grand time with the guys from the construction company. They had discussed how Simon got the company started and how he had persevered through many difficulties. Iago brought up the old Chevy commercials and how they used to say, “Like a Rock”, he described Simon in that way. He had been the steady companion and greatest boss they ever had working tirelessly not just for his business but for his employees. Esperanza turned to him and raised a glass, “From now on you shall be called Peter, for you are our rock!”

Many other patrons saw the joyous celebration in the pub. It brought life to many lives that night. A female to male trans man named Philip recognized Esperanza from her lesson earlier. He approached the group to thank her for the amazing lesson she taught. Esperanza invited him to join them, Philip asked if his friend Natalie could join them. He pointed over to a tall tattooed woman standing by the bar. She had purple undercut hair and was facing the bar. John laughed and said loudly, “The more the merrier!” Philip went and retrieved Natalie. Philip said to her, “She and those guys with her are the real deal! She has a real connection with the divine. She is the daughter of Maria and Jose from Durango, Mexico.” Natalie turned incredulous, “Can anything good come from Mexico?” Philip said to her, “Come and see.”

Esperanza greeted her with a hug, “This is an honest woman!” Natalie taken aback a bit, said, “How do you know?” Esperanza said, “Before Philip called you, I saw you at the bar.” Just then Natalie saw in Esperanza’s eyes a light that could not be explained. This brought understanding and peace with it. Natalie’s eyes began to well up, “You… You are her, aren’t you? You are the Messiah!” Esperanza’s grin grew large. She laughed a bit as she said, “Because I said I saw you at the bar you believe in me?” Esperanza put an arm around her shoulder and turned her toward the group. “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

After their night at the pub, they all returned to Peter’s house. They laughed and had a lovely night well into the small hours of the morning. They all slept on the sofas in the great room. Peter was the first one awake as his wife had come to tell him of her mother not feeling well. Esperanza awoke too. and couldn’t help but hear what was going on. Before they left the room Esperanza went over to them and asked if she could visit with Peter’s mother in law. Claire agreed and they all went upstairs to the room she was staying in. Rena was in the bed and definitely did not look well. She saw Esperanza and gave her a weak smile. Esperanza went up to her side of the bed and extended her hand in a friendly gesture. As Rena took the hand it was if life radiated from her hand to the rest of her body. Strength filled her frame and she got up out of bed. She hugged Esperanza and said, “You must be hungry. Come, I’m making breakfast.” True to her word, Rena went down to the kitchen and made breakfast for the entire group.

Claire posted on social media about the miraculous recovery of her mother. The post immediately went viral and those all over the hill country of Texas began to travel to Leaky so that their loved ones may be healed by this Esperanza. By evening there was a line of cars that stretched for more than a mile. Esperanza was not put off by this, she went to each individual vehicle and spoke with the occupants meeting, and greeting many. There were many who had cancers, auto-immune disorders, STI’s, and even those who had addictions and mental health issues. Those with addictions would often look at her with recognition, but she would often tell them it was not the time to tell the world who she was yet. She again stayed with Peter, the group had not left. In fact, they intended to follow Esperanza, and she would have it no other way.

The next day, they all set out to Kerrville. In Kerrville, there was a man who had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder approached Esperanza. The man fell to his knees in front of her. “Please, take this away from me! I can’t anymore. I can’t live like this.” Esperanza looked with compassion and empathy at the man. She lifted him up and hugged him. His face showed the relief that washed over him in that moment. His brain had been freed. She spoke to him, “Do not tell anyone, instead go and speak to your therapist. See a psychologist and get a clean bill of health.” The man took a long look at her and ran off he immediately posted on social media about what had happened. The word again went viral and the town became flooded with vehicles. Esperanza and the group had to go out to a nearby field in order to give the lessons she had prepared for the day.

The field was packed. People from all over the Texas hill country showed up. Priests and Rabbi from Austin and San Antonio were also in attendance. The people stretched far and wide. The group put up a small stage with a PA system in the middle of the field so that Esperanza could be seen by all. During this time there was a teenaged boy who had been diagnosed with AIDS. He was not doing well and his friends had wanted to bring him before Esperanza. When they arrived they saw no way of bringing him through the crowd to her. They spotted a news crew nearby who were preparing four large drones to carry heavy camera equipment. The friends gathered their money and paid the crew to use the drones to bring the boy to Esperanza. When she saw the makeshift medi-vac she smiled. They landed him in front of her and she said to him, “Your friends must really love you, be well my boy.” The priests and rabbis began to murmur. “She can’t just take illness away. This boy has sinned, or his parents have sinned, that’s why he’s sick! God made him ill for a reason!” Esperanza hearing this murmuring turned to the crowd. “What would you have me say? ‘Go and sin no more?'” She turned to the boy and with a sarcastic grin on her face gave the boy a look that said, “Whatever”. Then she said very sarcastically, “Go and sin no more my boy.” He got up and took the gurney down from the drones and pushed it back to his friends. All who were there remarked later, “We saw some weird things today.”

As the crowd was clearing out. Esperanza saw a woman she knew as the owner of a local LGBTQ bar, named Laura. She said to her, “Come, follow me.”  She took a look at Esperanza’s group and said, “The hell with it, I got nothing better to do.” Laura invited the group to her bar and they had an amazing party that night. The Priests and Rabbi rumored about Esperanza’s group. “She parties with sinners and unbelievers!” Esperanza heard of these rumors and spoke out on social media. “I didn’t come for the people who didn’t want my help. These people want my help.” There were many replies about how they were not true followers or real Jesuits. Esperanza again spoke out against this on social media, “How can you criticise those you don’t even know? What about your own lives, are they so spotless. If people really knew you would they say the same about you?”

<  Chapter 5  |  Chapter 7  >

The Honest Faith: Thank you, Mr. Trump

Again, 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.

Dear Mr. Trump,

I wrote you a letter a few months ago, I see you didn’t get it. That’s okay. I don’t blame you, you have a lot on your plate. I’m writing now to thank you. This may seem rather disingenuous, but it isn’t. I do want to thank you. You have done something that I never thought was possible. You have set into motion something that I have seen coming for a long time. The fruits of which I do not know if they are good or bad, yet. Currently, it remains to be seen. I know we don’t see eye to eye on a lot. That’s fine, I just wanted to say thank you.

Thank you for bringing light to the divisions within the Christian church. It is because of you that some of our deepest and darkest secrets are coming out. Your racist statements and hurtful rhetoric towards people groups of almost every people group, sexual identity, gender identity, mental ability, and more have shown just how bad those things have gotten within the culture the western church has created. Instead of stopping those things we allowed them to spread. We even sent out missionaries to other countries carrying these ideas with them. Was that right? No, not at all. But because what you have done brings light to those impulses within the church, I wanted to thank you.

Thank you for showing just how bad racism still is in this country. Really, white supremacists are openly marching in the streets now. That is still happening. There were those who claimed that we have gotten past this idea of racism, but nope. It’s alive, well, and uglier than ever. You helped feed this monster. Your statements that you have made, make it very clear where you stand. You have called my own genetic nationality all manner of hurtful and hateful things. You are responsible for taking control of the problems it is creating. I don’t know if you will, but you have shown the world just how bad it still is here in the U.S.A. That is not to say we are a bad country, just that our issues are still there. You showed the world that. Maybe now we can finally talk about it and work to begin fixing it.

Thank you for showing how bad homophobia is in this country still. Yes, we legalized same sex marriages. But we still haven’t gotten past this idea that those who love the same sex aren’t worthy of God’s love. It is because of your bold brashness that leaders of the small-c christian church came together to put out their own bold brash statement called the “Nashville statement”. This statement judged and condemned the lgbtq+ community. It showed just how hateful and hurtful the church still is toward them and all those who affirm and ally with them. That was never part of the Bible. Hate is not scriptural. Love is love, hate is hate. Don’t confuse the two. That statement is unchristian and does not represent the Divine. The Divine is Love. You emboldened those who signed this statement because somewhere along the way they thought that the political party you ran with was god’s party. I’m not quite sure which god that was, but it wasn’t the Divine.

Thank you for showing how bad Transphobia is in this country. You are not afraid of inciting violence or getting people involved in it, but you are afraid of sending those who don’t feel comfortable with their birth gender into violent situations? Maybe that’s nice of you, but I doubt that it is. I think it stems from a place of fear of trans people. But you know what, they are people they can think and choose for themselves. If they want to serve this country, great! LET THEM! What is under their uniform is their business, and their business alone. I support and I affirm them. I know you think this makes me a bad person, but you’ve already called me a bad hombre a few times because of my genetics. If loving people, supporting them, helping them in the ways that I can is bad, well then I accept that role.

Thank you for revealing just how bad nationalism has gotten in the church. Did you know there are churches around the world that fly the American flag because the missionaries who started this church were from this country? I know, that’s kind of crazy. I very much disliked throughout my entire career having the American flag anywhere in the sanctuary or even having patriotic music played in the service. The reason being that we are human beings first, Christian second, and way last in third place American. It had no bearing on the first two things, so, therefore, did not belong in a service having to do with them. When country comes before your humanity or even God, that is when it is a problem. I know where your priorities stand. You are number 1 on that list, that’s your own prerogative, but I choose to be human and show kindness to my fellow man. I choose to follow Christ, and if that does not align with being American, that sucks, but so be it.

Thank you for revealing just how greedy church leaders have become. I didn’t get involved in all of the social media bashings of Joel Osteen. I have never really been a fan of his or of Mega-churches for that matter. Seriously, when something sounds like the bad transformer why would you want to be a fan of it? But since you have traditionally been a symbol of greed in this country, those who were in the church were emboldened by your election to leadership. They started agreeing with Gordon Gecko from that 1980’s movie, stating that “Greed, is good.” The church, and the gospel have never been about financial prosperity. Those who preach that are not disciples of Christ. They are disciples of the almighty dollar. There has been a problem with this for years. But you started to reveal how bad it was.

Thank you for showing how we have seen women as objects and not people for way too long. Your objective view of your fellow human beings is not just limited to women, but your views on women have set us back a few decades. This has empowered the weakened power structures that were about ready to topple. It has shown a light on them and people began to try propping them up again. But the damage has been done. Women are not objects. They are not to be treated as such. They are human beings. Like you and me and your wife and your daughter and every other person on this planet. This power structure has been alive and well within the western church for far too long. People use Paul’s writings as if they were straight from the Divine itself. Paul has been deified in place of Jesus. We see what damage that has wrought throughout this entire letter. Women are not objects, they are people. We are all people. All of us human.

So, Thank you, Mr. Trump. You and those who have aligned themselves with you have brought these problems to light. There is one thing that we have to do now. We have to fix it. By we, I mean all of us, including you and those who aligned themselves with you. We do not fix this by writing nebulous statements that pretend to speak for the Divine. That’s not helpful. No, we get our hands dirty. We roll up our sleeves and get to work setting our minds to figuring out what we need to do to fix the problem. It is not by banning things or making “immoral” things illegal. It’s by figuring out what the root problem is and addressing it. We have to sit down and talk to those we are afraid of. We need to get to the reason why we are afraid of each other and figure out how we can live together in love, peace, and harmony. I realize what I am saying sounds like a pipe dream. I realize that it is very idealistic. But honestly, I believe it is the truth. I believe that we need to love others without condition, without agenda, without anything but love. LOVE IS LOVE. We need to show every human being that they are not alone, and they matter. That’s right, as much as I’d hate to admit it, even you Mr. Trump are not alone, you matter as well. You are a human being. God loves you, too. I know you probably don’t want to even acknowledge that, but it’s true. You are a loved. Don’t stop at revealing the problem. It’s time for you to do something about it. It’s time for all of us to do something about it.

 

Sincerely,

Miguel

You are not alone, You matter.

The Story of Esperanza Reyes: Chapter 5

After the symbolic ritual cleansing in the Rio Grande River, Esperanza felt led to take an extended retreat into the hill country to find her center. She had decided to fast during this retreat, drinking only water from the canteens and supply she brought with her. This had been a long held ritual to find oneself while cutting off from the rest of society and technology. Overall she had been on this retreat for forty days.

After the thirtieth day, Esperanza had grown hungry. The lack of food and the lack of input had begun to drive her into some hallucinations. At first, they were small, like a rabbit that wasn’t really there, to voices of people she knew and loved that had long since left her. On a fortieth day, a figure bathed in light and glorious like the morning star appeared before her. It spoke to her in a melodic and inviting voice that sounded like a grand symphony inviting her to listen. “Aren’t you hungry? You know you are the child of the Divine, don’t you? See that round rock over there? Comand that rock to become bread.” Esperanza shook her head to clear it. She spoke to the figure. “As it’s been said, we can’t fully live just by filling our bellies.”

Suddenly, she looked around and realized she was on HaAv’s balcony. The one on which he addresses the many Jesuits who come to pilgrimage to the Ir Gibeah. “Jump,” the figure said simply. “Show these people that you are the child of the Divine. They will believe you are if only you jump. The Divine would protect you. Finally, a woman would be in the highest seat of power within the religion.” Esperanza felt conflicted. Even more so than from the hunger. That was something she wanted. She wanted to tear down this power structure that kept people subjugated. She shook her head again. “No, I will not be a part of the system that keeps people subjugated.”

Again, the scene shifted around her. Now she was standing in a crater on the moon. She rubbed her eyes, this must be a hunger hallucination she thought to herself. The figure pointed to the earth. “What if I told you, I can give you power over all of that. Nobody would have to be subjugated anymore. You would just tell them not to. You can have it all, you only need take it.” Esperanza thought for a good long moment. She knew she could have power and would only need grasp it. She again shook her head. “No! That’s not the way. They wouldn’t learn that way. People need to come to the choice on their own to be good. If I do it for them, they would never understand why they need it.” She closed her eyes.

When she opened her eyes, she saw the same Texas hillside that she was sitting on only moments earlier. She knew that it may have been a hallucination, but it taught her what she needed to know about herself. Her retreat was over. She opened her pack and pulled out a self-made granola bar. She ate and returned to her vehicle to return home.

When she returned home, she went to her congregation the next weekend. She prepared a message relating all she had learned on her retreat. She read from the prophet Isaiah. She read:

The Spirit of the Divine is upon me, Because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the the time of the Divine”

She closed the book and handed it back to the acolyte who was standing nearby. She spoke and said. “The Kingdom of the Divine is here and now. We only need to make it a reality. We have been sent to give good news to the poor. We should help them and ensure they have what they need. We have been sent set those who are captive, free. Whether mentally, physically, or otherwise we are the ones to bring freedom. We are the ones to give sight to the blind. It is the time of the Divine. We are the ones who make it a reality. Don’t wait for someone else to do it. It is our time.”

There was a murmur in the congregation. “Isn’t this Maria and Jose’s Daughter? Where did she learn to speak like that? Why is a Mexican trying to tell us what to do?” She heard the murmur and addressed it, “Maybe you will choose not to believe me because I’m the daughter of immigrants. Maybe you will always see me that way. But I bring you the truth. Wasn’t there a story of the time of Elisha, where there was a famine in the land? The only ones who believed him were widows and foreigners.” Those who had murmured turned red with anger. The congregation started to get up out of their seats. She watched as they demanded she leave them. She walked out to her car as the congregation held a special meeting. Later that day she received word that she had been let go.

It was in that moment, that Esperanza knew she would no longer be a priest with a home. She needed to spread the message that the Divine’s Kingdom was here. Now was the time for the Divine’s people to act, and we are all the Divine’s people. It was time for her real ministry to begin.

Esperanza was invited to come speak in a temple in Kerrville. It was the Temple where her cousin Zachary had served for many years. It was a normal Sunday morning and people were filing into the temple. A young man wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt with the hood pulled over his face turned and looked her in the eye. He did it in such a sudden and rapid movement that it startled her. His eyes were blood shot and red. He looked high. His voice shook with terror. “What are you doing here? You are Esperanza Reyes. Did you come to rid this boy of me?” His last sentence dripped with disdain, “I know who you are, Daughter of the Divine.” Esperanza placed her hand on his shoulder in a kind and comforting way. She spoke to him. “It’s okay. I know the pain you have felt. You don’t need to escape it in this way anymore.” She whispered to him, “I have come to set you free.” The young man’s eyes cleared, and his posture changed. He stood up straight and pulled the hood down from over his head. He hugged her.

Those who were standing nearby knew this young man to be an addict. They marveled and said to each other “Who is this woman who can set a man free from his addictions with just a few words?” Reports of this encounter spread as most stories of amazement do. It became popular on social media. Many didn’t believe the story, many did. Esperanza’s story began to gain attention, and she was sought after to speak in many places from that point on.

<  Chapter 4  |  Chapter 6  >

The Honest Faith: What is Church?

A good friend of mine asked me last week to ask a question of my Facebook followers. This question was “What is church to you?” as in what constitutes going to church for you. He went on to say that for him it was going to the park and watching his children play and the interactions with other parents there, or Tae Kwan Do practice and the connections made with other parents there. I asked the question, though I did not receive a lot of response. But it is a question that stuck in my mind.

This week a different friend told me about a hashtag that arose in popularity on Twitter and is gaining some momentum on Facebook as well. This hashtag is #EmptyThePews to tell the story of why people are leaving the church. I started writing more frequently in my blog to express my feelings and struggle with coming to terms with my faith after my exit from in church ministry. So I figured this would be a good thing for me to check out. I started reading and I both wept and was filled with joy in knowing that I was not alone. This hashtag was started by writer and pretty cool guy Christopher Stroop. I sat and read, and responded, to a lot of these responses. If ever there was a full thread of how Christian’s have been annoying, that was it.

Have you ever wondered what constitutes church? Maybe you read my last two blog posts, and you began to wonder about your own community. Maybe you have left the church altogether but still feel a yearning to be in a community like that. Maybe you have found one, but something seems off or lacking. What could it be?

Last week I wrote about the ways we could be less annoying as Christians. Two themes emerged as the dominant ways to “fix our PR problem”. Those things were authenticity and Love. As I have spent time this week reading through the tweets on this hashtag I have found an overwhelming lack of authenticity and love from the church. It was mainly geared toward evangelicals, but the mainline denominations have been guilty of this as well. The sad part is that there are still some trying to rebuke those who have left for the reasons they left. Ask yourself, “what would Jesus do?” In this instance, I don’t think Jesus would berate those who left. Didn’t he tell the parable of leaving the 99 to go after the 1 who was lost? Did Jesus berate that lost sheep for leaving? Did Jesus emotionally abuse that lost sheep? No, the point was that all were loved, and cared for that a group is fine but the one alone is the one who needs the most care and attention. After all, I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

See, it comes back to this question. What is church? What is it that we have left? The truth is that church or religious gatherings are and always have been a place for people to find a connection with each other and the Divine at the same time. When it became a boot camp for “god’s army”, that was when it was time to empty the pews. When it became a place to point fingers at each other and claim superiority, that was when it was time to empty the pews. When it became anything other than a hospital for the spiritually infirmed that was when it was time to empty the pews.

I think my whole mission since starting on this journey of Honest Faith has been to discover what it really meant to follow Christ. I think that big question is one that has haunted me throughout the process. What is Church? What I have found throughout this almost year that I have been doing deep soul searching, is that it is about connection. It is about discovering that interconnectedness that we have with everything. That thing is the Divine.

There was this imagery that the evangelical church liked to use when I was growing up. It was imagery of God living within you. That with the Holy Spirit you have a bit of God living inside of you. When you asked Jesus into your heart, you had the Holy Spirit come in. The odd thing is, I think they got that right. Though I don’t think they were correct about the moment it happens, but the idea of the Divine being within. As I have written about many times before, I do believe the divine exists within everything. That we are all interconnected and when we realize that connection we begin to interact with the world around us with respect and care. They used to say, how would you do those things if you knew God was in you. Now I think how would I not want to do things if God was in me? I want to experience life. I don’t want life and fulfillment only after I’m dead. God never promised that. Jesus said that He came that we may have life and have it to the fullest.

So what then? Should we abandon all hope ye who enter here? Should we stop going to church altogether? No! There are churches that are still safe havens (sanctuaries, see what I did there?) for vulnerability, love, and connection. In fact, the amazing Facebook page “I’m not that kind of Christian” has a list or two full of churches that are striving to be that. There are some of us whose mission is to find, help, and support those who are on the outside in any way we can like me with Post-Church Christians, and many more like podcasts that I could list in the hundreds here (I’ll name two of my favorites, The liturgists, and TheLifeAfter.org). We are trying to get back to what we once were; a people of love, vulnerability, and connectedness. I found this week that I was not alone. I mattered because my story was one of many that all said, we looked for God in the church we couldn’t find God there. Like I said before, Jesus has left the building.

My heart breaks from many of the stories I read this week. My heart breaks because I’ve experienced a lot of them myself. I’ve seen a lot of them happen. I’ve even perpetrated some of them when I was in the church. It pains me when those things happen because I know it drives people even further away from connection with the Divine. Empty the pews was not about getting rid of Christianity, it was about why people couldn’t go to church anymore. Why they couldn’t go to a building that supported the power structures that Jesus worked so hard to dismantle. My heart breaks because so many have been told that they don’t matter. That they are alone. That was never the message. I asked curiously how many people, like myself, developed a pronounced anxiety disorder due to what happened, I got a lot of response. The good news is, though, that you are not alone, you matter.

The takeaway from this week is that church doesn’t have to be in a building. It is wherever you find a connection with the whole of creation. It is within you, and around you. Take a look. Maybe church for you is a group of people that meet in a pub and discusses theology, life, love, and everything in between. Maybe church is talking to the other parents at Tae Kwan Do practice. Maybe church is the people you eat lunch with at work or school. Maybe church is wherever you make it, and are able to feel the most connected, vulnerable and loved. The biggest most important thing about church is the reinforcement of my mantra; YOU ARE NOT ALONE! YOU MATTER! If you hear anything else, it’s time to empty the pews. May you know, you are not alone, you matter!

The Story of Esperanza Reyes: Chapter 4

Chapter 4

Thirty-five years later, in 2015 Barack Obama was president of the United States, and Greg Abbot just became the Governor of Texas. The Jesuits had a large area that was lead by an Arch-Rabbi named Gustavo Garcia-Siller, he lead the area of west Texas. Juan, the son of Zachary and Isabella, was now 36 years old. He, also, became a priest. Though, he did not feel welcomed in many church buildings. He decided to forge his own path. He preferred, instead, to hold services under tents in distant fields far away from populated areas. Many rumors circulated about him. Many thought he lived in a cave. There were rumors that he had survived by eating wild honey and grasshoppers. He didn’t help these rumors, by dressing very simply. He wore a ratty old leather jacket, very worn jeans, and an old “Hewey Lewis and the News” t-shirt most days. This didn’t stop his gatherings from drawing hundreds, if not thousands of people from the surrounding areas to come to one of his big tent services.

The people came from San Antonio, the Rio Grande Valley, El Paso, Austin, and even some from Dallas and Houston. They came and they listened. They came because he also listened to them. He heard their stories. It was as if when all gathered they were family. He used water from the Rio Grande to do ritual washings telling of the symbolic nature of water. Word began to spread far and wide of this eccentric leader in the wilderness of West Texas. Many began to come to these services soon the leaders and officials of the Jesuits and State caught word of this wild man drawing so much attention.

Some Rabbis and Priests came out to hear him speak a few times. He noticed this large gathering of leaders near the back of one of his services. He called out to them. “Liars and thieves, who said the end is near and sent you out here? Stop misleading your people and start teaching of the power of love. Stop hiding behind your ‘holy orders’ because anyone can and should read the good news for themselves. The Divine is ready to uproot that church because you do not bear good fruit. Instead, it is about to be composted.” The crowd grew into a murmur. One of the crowd asked him, “What are we supposed to do? He turned and spoke to the crowd, “If you have two coats, give one to someone who doesn’t have one. If you have more than enough food, give the leftovers to those who are hungry. Quit hoarding for yourself.” There were also gathered the wealthy and elite oil tycoons who had gathered in the crowd. Juan spoke directly to them now, “Don’t take more money than you have to. Don’t be greedy.” He turned to those in police uniform in the crowd. “Don’t abuse your authority over civilians. Treat everyone with the same kindness and love no matter their lot or skin color.”

The rabbis and priests, now deflated, called out accusingly. “Why are you leading these services and saying such things if you aren’t the chosen one, the Messiah that was to come?” Juan turned back to them and said, “I am just the messenger, not the Messiah. There is one who is coming who is so much more important than I am. I am not even worthy enough to shake Her hand. I have shown you the symbolic nature of being washed by water, She will fill your souls with water of life cleansing you from the inside-out.”

One of the Governor’s aides was in attendance at that service. This man spoke against power structures and threatened the very power that the state government had over the people. This aide also feared that his own sins would be pointed out to everyone, so he began to plot against Juan. The aide worked to plant evidence of a crime upon Juan. This was done, and Juan was thrown in prison. Juan did not put up a fight but cooperated with all that was asked of him. He talked with the other prisoners and told them of the freedom that the Divine provides.

Before Juan was imprisoned, Esperanza came from Eden, Texas to one of her cousin’s services. This service was held along the Rio Grande just south of Del Rio, Texas. She went to his service because she heard of the ritual cleansings he did, and needed to experience this for herself. Juan was very against the idea when he heard of it. He said to her, “I need to be cleansed by you, not the other way around.” Esperanza said to him, “It’s alright. It is necessary for me, and a symbol for others.” Juan gave in and performed the ceremony. When Esperanza came out of the water the clouds rolled away and the sun had shown seemingly directly upon her. The wind picked up and it sounded like the Divine’s voice carried upon it saying “This is my child, with whom I am delighted.” Esperanza spoke to those gathered, “The Divine waits to delight in you as well.”

All this took place during the beginning of the year. As I have written before, not much is known about Esperanza’s early life. There are many stories though none that I felt necessary to tell. There is one that struck me deeply, if true. It has been said that Esperanza was married in her twenties. She had two children. This family was well beloved by Esperanza. It has been said that they loved her deeply as well. Esperanza’s parents had grown older and could not cross the border as they used to. Her siblings were all grown and had moved all over the country. She was the only one left in Texas. She made it a point to go and visit her family regularly. She would legally cross the border with her family, stay a few days, and return without issue. Though it seems not all of these trips were without issue. On one such journey returning from Durango, Mexico to Eden, Texas, the family was pulled over by the state patrol. They had received a report about a vehicle the same make and color that Esperanza and her family drove. It was reported that a drug cartel was using such a vehicle to smuggle drugs and other things across the border. When it was seen that a Mexican family was traveling across the border in such a vehicle, the state patrol jumped into action. It was dark and the family was ordered get out of the car with their hands up. As Esperanza’s husband was helping the younger child out of the car the, older child had poked his head in around his father to grab one of his toys to show the police. His father stood up and took the toy plastic gun from his son. This was mistaken as a real weapon by the police officers. The officers took a few shots and killed the father and two children. This was in the year 2013. Esperanza mourned the deaths of her family, though during her ministry she never spoke of this incident. It may be just a rumor, but this story gives so much more weight to the things she said if it were true. I share it because I feel as though it is true of her character.

 

<  Chapter 3  |   Chapter 5  >

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!

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.

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