The Honest Faith: 95 Theses for a Modern Church

I’ve been doing a lot of listening lately to many different voices and many traditions of faith. I’ve noticed a lot. I’ve found a lot and learned a lot. I’ve listened to a lot of Protestant voices, Catholic voices, and Orthodox voices. There is a resounding chord that is played across those voices. There is a thread that connects all but is also very distant to many. I’ve listened to Muslim, Buddist, Jewish, Christian, and Other voices as well. It has been very helpful to get some objectivity and difference of opinion on my own religious tradition as well. I have done a lot of deconstruction and am working to reconstruct what it means to be a Jesus follower for me. Since it is the Reformation week and this is the 500th anniversary of the time that Martin Luther nailed the 95 theses to the chapel door at Wittenburg I felt it would be helpful for me to write my 95 theses of a reconstructed Jesus Follower theology. I use the term Ancient-Future because as I have been learning I learned that the Christianity of old looked much much different than the Christianity of today. I think we lost a lot. So in order to help with some reconstruction here are my 95 theses:

  1. When Yeshua preached the Gospel He said that the Kingdom of the Divine was “at hand” or here and now meaning that the time of good was now or soon, and so stop doing bad things. (Matt 4:17, Mark 1:15, Luke 3:2-3)
  2. Yeshua’s message of repentance was about power systems and stop treating others worse than dirt.
  3. This repentance was done through your life, not just your belief. Faith without works is dead. (James 4)
  4. The Divine doesn’t care about “sin” but more cares that we do what was asked of us throughout both Jewish, and Christian scriptures which is to we love the Divine, love others, and love ourselves.
  5. No other person can define what your religious practice is “supposed” to look like. That’s different for each person. We all encounter the Divine in our own ways.
  6. Shovelling guilt upon people in order for them to be “moral” is no way to make good people, only causes abuse and anxiety
  7. There is no hierarchy in the Kingdom of the Divine, other than the Divine itself being over all. We are all equal.
  8. As Yeshua taught, the law was made for man, not man for the law. It’s there for us to know how to be good humans, not for us to be slaves to some code.
  9. We have no idea if there is an afterlife. We do not know if there is an actual Heaven or Hell. We create them every day in how we treat others, so make your world Heaven rather than Hell.
  10. There are many “spiritual” leaders who will try to sell you their way of understanding. No one person has it all figured out. If they say they do they are trying to sell you something.
  11. Power and control are only held by those we give it to. When that power is abused it is our duty to speak up and take back the power we gave to them.
  12. Knowledge and education are not bad things. It is good to learn all you can, if it shakes what you believe, all the better. Learn what is true.
  13. Death calls to life. Throughout nature, we see this. We are a resurrection people. Sometimes things need to die in order to be reborn. This is change. It hurts, but something new is coming.
  14. Love is love. Love cannot be sin. If someone loves someone of the same gender, it is not a sin. There is really only one sin, Hate. (see 4)
  15. Telling others that they should “Sin no more” is akin to saying “I am God” what you deem to be a sin probably isn’t even a sin. There is really only one sin, Hate.
  16. If there is an afterlife, it is not ours to say who is in or who is out. There is a concept that Heaven and hell are the same place it is only a matter of how you view other people. (see 9)
  17. Worry is not a sin. Anxiety is a very real mental disorder. Don’t try to tell people to wish it away, that isn’t helpful. Instead, love them enough to help them get the help they need.
  18. For that matter just love people. Give them the help they need regardless.
  19. Nothing is for sure in this life. There is only one thing we can know for sure. We are all going to die, and it is sooner than we think. So just give love to everyone, for that is the true way to measure your life.
  20. Theology is really just best guesses at the Divine. Don’t live under the tyranny of someone else’s truth. Find out what is true for you.
  21. People will always try to take advantage of you. Be wise about this, but do not let it stop you from giving love and kindness freely. Don’t let them force their truth upon you.
  22. Don’t be afraid to speak truth to power. The powerful may not listen, but their followers will.
  23. Nobody is perfect. NOBODY not even you. So don’t worry about being perfect. Worry about loving yourself anyway.
  24. People will try to sell you ways of being perfect, but the honest truth is they are trying to sell you stuff. You aren’t perfect, that’s okay.
  25. Pastors and Priests are human too. It means that they aren’t perfect either. Allow them to be human. It’s okay, they are trying to find the Divine same as you.
  26. Listen to your pastors and priests, if something seems illogical or way outside of your truth, ask them about it. Don’t go along blindly. Questioning is good.
  27. If you don’t feel comfortable in a modern church setting, don’t go. It’s supposed to be about community. Community only works when you are a part of it.
  28. Take a good look at your priest or pastor if they are only seeking money, power, or fame. You probably shouldn’t be seeking their advice.
  29. There are other voices than your own. You would be wise to listen to the truths they have found. Though be discerning about those you take to heart.
  30. Nobody has the full truth. Which is why we are all seekers of wisdom.
  31. Don’t give money to those preachers who tell you it will increase your blessing. Just don’t.
  32. Money will not buy you salvation. It can grant you peace of mind knowing your bills will be paid.
  33. Know that others struggle with money, and therefore need your help. If you have extra, give extra.
  34. Yeshua taught that the Kingdom of the Divine was like a great feast where all were invited. Give freely to all.
  35. Do not attach strings to the Love of the Divine. There are no strings, no agendas, nothing you have to do to earn it. It’s already yours.
  36. The only sin is hate. That is the opposite of love. If you do not love your fellow man, then you are sinning. It’s pretty simple. Just love.
  37. Yeshua only gave one commandment to his followers, “that you love one another as I have loved you”. (John 13:34)
  38. Yeshua was a man, we also consider him to be Divine. True study of what this man was like is essential to be a follower of his.
  39. Even the most educated and most published theologians have not gotten it all figured out. Study and find what is true, but don’t ever believe you have it all figured out.
  40. Love those who hate you, It’s hard I know. But be kind, listen to what they have to say, if there is no truth in it don’t take anything they have to say to heart.
  41. A Yeshua follower’s true mission is just to love.
  42. Loving requires a bit of humility on your part. Don’t believe yourself better than anyone else. Instead imagine others as complexly as you imagine yourself.
  43. Give freely. If you have extra, give extra. Give until you can’t give anymore, and keep giving even then. If you don’t have money, give your time, if you don’t have time, give your love. Love freely, give freely.
  44. Love grows the more you understand and know about something. So learn about your fellow man. Understand the struggles.
  45. The Good Samaritan is a story about a hated individual giving of himself even though the person he helped probably hated him. Be like the good Samaritan.
  46. Take care of your family. Don’t give what you cannot give. Be responsible. We were told to be good stewards of what was given to us.
  47. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. We all need help from time to time. Don’t let people shame you for getting help either.
  48. Christians should be taught the full history of our faith, not just the highlights. The debates about whether Yeshua was a man or just spirit. The henotheistic nature of the followers at the time of the man. ect.
  49. Christians should also be taught that the Bible, while a great story about the nature of God, is only a book, and should not be elevated to Divinity. That is how idols are made.
  50. Christians should not guilted into doing anything for the church. It only survives if the community is there willingly, and doing the work of loving people we were told to do.
  51. Christians were meant to live life to the fullest, not enslaved to laws and moral codes. Those who say otherwise are trying to gain power, money, or control.
  52. It is vain to trust in salvation by giving money, believing the teachings of someone because they have a lot of followers or the amount of fame they have, or just plain belief. Salvation is not earned, it’s already given you already have it. So live freely, love freely, and give freely.
  53. It is against the teachings of Yeshua to hate or divide people. It is against the teachings of Yeshua to subjugate others. All are equal.
  54. An injury is done to the ability for people to think freely when the Bible is taken out of context or used in a way to hurt or injure someone.
  55. It is good to study further into the book of the Bible as one would find the truths of history.
  56. The Church should not be concerned about money, but rather about the people that grace its doorways.
  57. Yeshua spoke against those who sought fame, fortune and power. Yet the church has venerated those as masters as of late. Seek to venerate those who love above all else.
  58. Yeshua died for what he taught. I do believe that martyrdom did mean something and should teach us how important that message was.
  59. Social Justice is the work of the church. It always has been since the time of Yeshua. The work of Love is about fighting for Love, equality, and justice.
  60. Socialism, communism, capitalism, and so on are just ideas and concepts. They cannot be evil or good. How they are used is what would make them evil or good. They have all been used in evil ways over the course of human history.
  61. Listen to the ideas of others. Many people have good ideas. On paper, most things can work out, but the reality is certainly complicated and makes things difficult. So be realistic, but optimistic as well.
  62. The Divine is evident in all things. We should treat all things with the same respect and veneration we have for the Divine as all things are a attempting to be in concert with the Divine.
  63. Do not seek power, instead seek how you may help those with less have the same opportunities you did. Help them get started.
  64. Do not dismiss another due difference of belief. They may know something you don’t. Ask them and listen as to why they think how they do.
  65. Do not argue to be right, rather converse and ask in order to learn.
  66. If your church doesn’t care for the poor, the needy, the jobless, the orphan, the widow, the immigrant (regardless of how they entered), women, children, and those of “lesser status” you need to ask yourself why you are there.
  67. If you are going to church to be seen or to somehow be “holy” you are going for the wrong reasons.
  68. If your church would turn a homeless man away any day of the week and preach about one on a Sunday morning, you need to ask yourself why you go.
  69. If your church care more about in-reach (getting people to come and stay) rather than out-reach helping those they need to help, you need to examine why you go.
  70. If your church is more concerned about Stewardship (financial giving) rather than outreach you need to examine why you go.
  71. Find a community you feel comfortable with. Find a place you can serve your fellow human being with. Learn from each other there, don’t allow yourself to be complacent and content with just going.
  72. Don’t shun someone for asking questions. They seek the truth as well. They may just be trying to help everyone.
  73. Look for communities who are doing the work and give freely to that work of your time, talent, and money. If they don’t want your help find another community.
  74. Don’t let others in those communities put out your fire to do good. Find ways to make it helpful and fit, or find a different community.
  75. Remember there is nothing that can separate you from the love of the Divine, there is also nothing that you can do to earn it.
  76. If you cannot find a community, it may be that you have to make one yourself. Commit to it and find the support you need.
  77. Don’t sell yourself short because you aren’t like someone else. You are yourself and that is incredible.
  78. No one is greater than another. We are all human.
  79. While no one is greater than another, some have learned more than others. Listen to those who studied more than you. You may learn something important.
  80. Preachers and priests who say that one person is better than another are trying to sell you something. You would do well to question them.
  81. Those who spread such messages are not doing the work of the Divine.
  82. The Divine is everywhere and therefore does not favor one country over another.
  83. If you believe your country to be the favored of the Divine, you are mistaken and worshiping an idol.
  84. All things are permissible but not all things are beneficial. If you do something that hurts another, stop doing it. (1Corinthians 10)
  85. Let go of hate, grudges, and past misdeeds. Each day is a new day. Learn something new. Show love to someone. Be the change you want to see.
  86. It’s not hard to show love to someone. Just take it one day at a time, one person at a time.
  87. Anger does not equal hate. When you are angry it means something is wrong. Examine it find what it is, do something about it. When anger stagnates it becomes hate.
  88. Don’t go off unexamined. Hasty actions can be misinformed and ill-advised.
  89. Stand for what you believe in.
  90. Show love to those who hate you.
  91. Be slow to anger.
  92. Love
  93. Realize you are not alone.
  94. Realize you matter.
  95. Since you are not alone and you matter, what you do can make a difference.

Of course this is all just what I think. You are not alone. You matter.

The Story of Esperanza Reyes: Chapter 14

Chapter 14

As she was teaching in a church one Sunday morning, A woman who had suffered from near-crippling arthritis for eighteen years approached her. When Esperanza saw her she called to her, “Ma’am, may you feel healing in your bones.” She rested her hand on the woman’s shoulder. The woman straightened out for the first time in years. Life seemed to pour into her. The priest was infuriated, for Esperanza had healed his congregation member, in his church, on a Sunday, in front of his congregation no less. He turned to his congregation, “If you want healing from this woman, you can do it on your own time, in your own houses! I will not have this done on a Sunday!” Esperanza turned to him shaking her head, “You hypocrite! Don’t you read on a Sunday? Do you turn on your television on a Sunday? Do you cook for your family on a Sunday? Do you walk your dog and feed it on a Sunday? Why should this woman not seek healing on a ‘Sunday’?” At this, the congregation stood and applauded. The priest turned bright red in anger and stormed off to his office.

Esperanza turned to the congregation. “What is the kingdom of the Divine like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a small spark set to kindling. When it comes off the flint it is so very small, but when it catches it can set fire to the largest bonfire. All who are near can feel it’s warmth. It is like a baker adding a bit of sourdough to the fresh dough in order to make a magnificent loaf of sourdough bread. Just a little bit can go a very long way.”

After this teaching, she continued on her way through cities and towns. In one town there was a person who asked her, believing in a shortly coming apocalyptic future, “Are there a lot of people who will be saved?” She said to him, “Don’t worry about how many will be ‘saved’. Instead, focus on the work that I have taught you to do. That will certainly save your life. Love your neighbor, love your enemies, and live your life fully. There will be those who do not do this, and only worry about the numbers of the ‘saved’. They will come to the end of life and say, ‘Look at all we did in your name!’ when all they cared for was themselves. They will understand that life was not about themselves, but others. There is room at the table for everyone. All are welcome. You need not worry about how much room there is, just that you show all to the table. Sometimes you may be the one who needs to be shown, other times you may be the one showing.” It turned out that this man was a priest. He invited her over for dinner that very evening.

On the way to dinner, he confided in her. He was part of a larger committee that had been discussing her for a few months. He said to her, “The government isn’t happy about the things you have been saying. Even the president wants to silence you.” She said to him, “You can tell this committee that I’m doing the work the Divine has for me. I will continue doing what I’m doing until the day I die. If they don’t like it, they can come speak with me themselves. The government has always had a problem with people who speak the truth. I understand your concern for me, but when the time comes I will suffer and even die for the truth if the Government wills.” They continued on their way.

When they arrived at the priest’s house, one of his friends with extreme swelling and edema. Since many of the priest’s friends who had gathered were lawyers, priests, and rabbi, Esperanza turned to them and asked, “One of you said to me earlier today that it was unlawful to heal or seek healing on a Sunday. Is it unlawful to heal on a Sunday?” They just looked at her in silence. She placed a hand on his shoulder keeping her eyes on the crowd. He had a relieved look and then surprised look immediately followed. He excused himself and rushed off to the bathroom. When he returned his body had shrunk back to a normal size. She smiled at him and said, “If your child falls into a well, would you not go immediately try to get him out on a Sunday?” They just remained silent and stared at her. The man who had edema hugged her thankfully.

When it came time for dinner they were trying to figure out where each of them would sit. Since it was the priest’s house they thought he should sit at the head of the table. Esperanza took the opportunity to tell a story to them. “When you are invited to a wedding do you go and sit at the head table? No! You probably would take the seat nearest the back of the room unless someone comes and points you to a place of honor set for you. Then you would be honored by those who are at your table. You shouldn’t be seeking honor, honor is given to those who do not seek it. When you hold a dinner party you shouldn’t invite your friends and neighbors just to be repaid. You should invite all who need to eat so they can truly appreciate the food that is given to them.” One of the Rabbi who was sitting near her said, “Well that I can agree with!” She smiled and toasted the meal for all who were gathered. She then told an ancient story about a king who was having a wedding feast for his son. Many were invited, but all those invited gave excuses as to why they could not attend. The king heard this and asked his servants to invite even the lowest of the low to the meal. They did so until the room and tables were filled. The king found favor with these. Those who did not show up lost places of honor. When those who had gathered at the dinner heard this they contemplated the meaning of it.

 

The Honest Faith: Context

Okay, let’s play a game. I’m going to reference a couple of pieces of pop culture and you try to guess where they are from before reading on where I’ll post an answer key below. Okay, you ready?

  1. Chaka when the walls fell
  2. Winter is coming
  3. Don’t have a cow, man!
  4. I’m in a glass case of emotion!
  5. Alonsi!
  6. Blessed be the fruit! Praise be!
  7. (said while arms spread) EAGLE!
  8. The only thing better than a cow is a human! Unless you need milk. Then you really need a cow.
  9. May the Force be with you!
  10. Bah! Humbug!
  11. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.
  12. I have been, and shall always be your friend.
  13. Ye’r a wizard, Harry!
  14. faster than a speeding bullet, Stronger than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.
  15. With great power comes great responsibility.

These pieces are pictures of our culture. I started off with a hard one, and if you got it extra points to you because that is the one I want to discuss. There is an episode of Star Trek the next generation that delves into language, story, and analogy. The crew of the Enterprise D is out to broker a deal with a race that only speaks in analogy. They only use stories to speak to one another. The actions taken in those stories are what they mean and how they wish others to act. I really wanted to do a full study on this episode with most church groups that I worked with.

I think one of the biggest things I took away from this particular episode is how when we only speak in Churchenese that people never really fully understand what we are saying. I wanted to have that discussion with other Christians at the time. This was until this past year when I started to strip down my beliefs and find out what really was worth keeping. I have to be honest, since college, I never have seen the Bible as a literal and historically accurate book. I love the Bible. I believe that it is completely true about the nature and character of the Divine when taken as story, narrative, poetry, and speeches. Though when I started out on this new journey of Honest Faith. I started to take a deeper look at the man Jesus. I wanted to find out who this historical person was outside of all the myth.

I did a lot of study on this in college, I even had roommates who sort of worshipped John Dominic Crossan. But I never went fully into this study of who the real man was. I knew that there were popular stories at the time of Ceasar’s being born of god and called the son of god. Even the Egyptians said that of their Pharaohs. There were other god men at the time. The Pagans and Jewish people all believed that Divine beings could become human and humans could become Divine. I also even learned that the Jewish people were all monotheistic. That was until recently. Recently I’ve been listening to an audiobook called “How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee” by Bart D. Ehrman. There is a ton of information in this book and it’s probably better read than listed to as I keep having to pause to digest the information I was taking in.

In the Book Ehrman within the first two chapters talks about what the Pagans and Jewish people believed and were sort of like during the time of Jesus. I say sort of because it’s all from archeology and writings from the time period and we can probably never truly know what life was like for them unless we somehow invent a time machine. Ehrman starts by talking about Apollonius of Tyana who was a contemporary and also rival story to that of Yeshua. (What’s funny is he’s also quoted on the wiki page I linked) He also talks about how Apollonius was, according to his myth, born of a virgin who was chosen by the divine, performed miracles, and even resurrected from the dead. He uses this to emphasize that the pagans also believed in divine beings becoming human. He goes on to talk about how the Jewish people were not Monotheistic but rather Henotheistic. They believed that there were many gods but only one who deserved honor and worship. His book illuminated a lot of things for me thus far, but I want to focus on the one big point of this all, CONTEXT.

In his book, Ehrman describes some of the contexts on how to use the gospels as source materials to find the historical man Jesus. He doesn’t delve too much into it and he points out to other source materials for people to go further into that study. His most important point of it all, however, is context is everything. This is the reason why I bring up modern pop culture and the reason for writing this week. Have you ever noticed that when taken out of context people can use quotes, words, passages, and even verses to mean whatever they want them to mean? Let’s take number 8 from above. The show (hint) did not receive great ratings while it was on the air, even though in my opinion it was one of the most awesome tv shows. Out of context, it doesn’t mean much. It seems like someone is comparing humans and cows. Out of context I could say that the speaker was standing on a farm and looking at a heard of cows. Since it’s on tv you could probably picture that. You probably even pictured maybe a whole police crew at a crime scene next to a herd of cows, because in our modern context procedural crime dramas dominate our pop culture landscape. If you know where the quote came from, however, you know that none of that is accurate at all. The same is true with how we read the Bible.

If you have been lucky enough to live in a cave and never had any preconceived idea spoken to you or given to you about the Christian Bible, and were given a copy without chapter markings, verse numbers, book titles, and footnotes. How do you think it would read? Besides probably giving up at the whole “Begats” part, what would you think this person would take from it? A story of a people who were slaves first to death, then to the gods of their fathers, and then to the ancient Egyptians (and more) who are constantly saved and redeemed by this Divine being working through humans. Finally, after about midway through, you come to this shift. There are four similar but different stories about this preacher in Isreal about 300 to 400 years after the last thing you read. One of those stories is way-way out there in abstractness. The message seems to remain the same only instead of physical slavery items this preacher guy brings up abstract slavery of the mind to something called sin. You know from the context of the past reading that it is mostly those things that separate a person from God. Yet, this preacher doesn’t seem too concerned about those rules or laws. He seems more concerned about love for everybody. There is an immediateness of what he has to say because as you read the end is near and is coming. After his stories, there are stories of his followers. Everything after is letters from those followers and a weird story of a vision that someone had that is sort of in a letter. Have you ever thought objectively about the Bible in this context? Have you ever read it without someone giving you context beforehand? Have you taken it out of context yourself?

One of the things that I’m finding as I’m searching for Honest Faith is that context is everything. Through my writing, podcasting, and social media-ing I’m finding that context is key to almost everything. You can’t really understand what someone posts unless you know where they are and what they are doing. You can’t really understand people unless you know the context of their lives. How are we 2000 years after even the writing of the Gospels, which by the way the first was written about 30 to 40 years after Jesus’ death, supposed to really understand this man? None of us grew up in rural Isreal around the beginning of the Common or Christian Era. None of us really have a full context even for the rest of the Bible.

The reason I write this today is not to get all thoroughly intellectual on you. I write today because recently I’ve seen a lot of people using the Christian Bible to harm other people. They take verses and passages way out of context and use it as a sword. It was never intended to be a weapon. In fact, as I’ve been searching for this historical Jesus guy, I’m finding that he probably would have very much disliked that. I write because I feel deeply that we have lost the plot completely while reading and studying this book. That we need to find better and more historical context to gather what the writers were really trying to convey. Not just with the Bible, but with almost anything that can happen. The point of my post today is this “Context is EVERYTHING”. Thank you for indulging my intellectual aside for this weeks post. You are not alone, You matter.

 

ANSWER KEY

  1. Star Trek- The Next generation
  2. Game of Thrones
  3. The Simpsons
  4. Anchorman
  5. Doctor Who
  6. The Handmaid’s Tale
  7. Scrubs
  8. Fringe
  9. Star Wars
  10. A Christmas Carol
  11. Romeo and Juliet
  12. Star Trek- Original series second movie “the wrath of khan”
  13. Harry Potter
  14. Superman
  15. Spiderman

The Story of Esperanza Reyes: Chapter 13

Chapter 13

Esperanza was again teaching a large crowd. One of the many who were gathered asked her to settle a dispute. He asked, “Miss if you would, my brother will not share the inheritance with me.” Esperanza laughed a bit at this, “Who made me judge or divider of wealth? Listen, don’t measure your life with golden rulers. You cannot truly live if you measure your life with wealth or stuff.” She then saw that there was some misunderstanding at this so she told them a story. “Imagine a wealthy wall street banker. This man is single and has no immediate family. He buys all the most wonderful things that money can buy. He has a nice penthouse apartment overlooking the city. He has all that he could possibly want, but he still felt uneasy because he was alone. One night he has a heart attack. As the pain subsides and he contemplates his own mortality he realizes how fruitless his life must be. He has stored up so much wealth, but who would gain from it all when he passes? Shouldn’t he have used that wealth to help others?”

She continued teaching, “So again, why worry so much about those things? Does worry put food on your plate, or clothes on your back? I know there is so much anxiety that is built up for you by our society; to have more, or be more. I know, believe me. But think about the wild animals. Do they worry about planting or where they are going to find food? No, they go looking for it and most find what they need. How much more do you think the Divine cares for you. Not that it will magically appear, but if you go looking for it. If you work for it, you will find it. So may wealth and riches not add to your worry. There are other things to worry about. Worry instead if your neighbor has enough to eat. Worry instead that your friends have the clothes they need. Instead, seek the Kingdom of the Divine. By worrying about those things you seek that kingdom. The Divine will be present with those who use what they have to provide for those in need. Instead of storing up wealth, store up experiences, love, friendship, and charity. Keep doing these things we have talked about. If you give and give and give of yourself until you can give no more, you will be ready for when you are in need. Those you have given to would happily give back to you in kind. Always be ready to help those in need, as you have been given much, much is needed from you. It is like a store owner who leaves his employees in charge while he is on vacation. The store owner did not tell the employees when the vacation would end. Would the employees just slack off and leave the store unlocked after hours? Do you think the store owner would be happy? What if they did what was expected of them and more? What if they gave the extra to those in need? Would the store owner return happily? Of course! For with great power comes great responsibility. If you have been given much, much will be expected of you. So do it. Give what you have. This message is dangerous because it flies in the face of those of power. I have not come to comfort the power structures. I’ve come to light the fire of rebellion. I’ve come to tear down the walls.”

She said this with unease as she could tell that those in power knew this. She was dangerous to their power and they would do what they needed to stop her. She saw the signs of this as more and more came to her lessons. They often would stand in the back or on the outskirts of the crowd with scowls. Not once would they participate or listen. She knew this message was one that would catch fire. She spoke anyway.

She continued, “You know what is right. You know how to treat your fellow man. Why do you pretend not to know? I’m telling you the time is coming that you will have to answer for how you treated one another. You have heard about how the Governor has imprisoned and even deported those who have protested? Some are being executed for crimes they did not commit. Do you think these people are worse than those who say nothing? I tell you unless you stand up and treat each other with love you will suffer the same fate. What about those who were working on “The Wall” between the USA and Mexico who died when it fell on them? Do you think they were worse people than anybody else? No, they weren’t. All people are worthy of love. It’s like an orange tree planted in a yard. If the person who planted the orange tree sees that it does not produce oranges wouldn’t he cut it down and dig it out? Unless you love your fellow man, regardless, you are like the orange tree. Unless you give of yourself without agenda, you are like so many unfruitful trees.”

<  Chapter 12  |  Chapter 14  >

The Honest Faith: UnChristian

When I was little my great-grandfather, who I called Bop, had a car that talked. It wasn’t anything fancy, it would just tell you often, “The door is ajar, The door is ajar.” His favorite joke was to ask us kids, “When is a door not a door?” Since we were kids we didn’t know this one. He would humorously say, “When it is ajar!” He wasn’t a very expressive person. He loved his family, you knew this by the way he treated them. It didn’t take a lot. He always made sure that we kids had good shoes. That is one thing I remember most about him. Though this joke always stood out to me. I think now more than ever. When is a door not a door? When it’s ajar. I started to think about this in the terms of the metaphorical door to heaven. When is that door not a door? When it’s ajar. I thought about when it would be open, my thought, maybe completely heretical, but I don’t think it closes. When is a Christian not a Christian? When they try to close that door.

Recently I’ve been seeing more and more divides happening. Maybe it’s because people are finally waking up to the reality that they have already been there. Maybe it’s because people are sick and tired of the same old, same old. Whatever the case may be the divides are there and they are widening. I didn’t start the fire, it was always burning, since the world was turning. More and more people are turned off by the word Christian. It’s not just because of the annoying things Christians have done. I wrote about that before. It’s because we, I’m including myself, have lost sight of the good news. Our ideas became about saving souls and being profitable at that. We got a numbers game mixed up with a loving game. They are two separate things and never should have been combined. When is a Christian not a Christian? When they are concerned with the number of souls they are saving rather than actually “saving” souls.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be concerned about the “state” of someone’s soul. I’m just saying that I’ve seen more and more people aren’t really concerned about that. They are more concerned about being right. This obsession with being right causes them to be blind to truths that are right in front of them. They gloss over all manner of evil and hate in order to get the “I’m the one who is right” badge. The problem being, it’s a scorched earth campaign. They will change things in order to be right. When that happens people get hurt. People die, and all in an attempt to be correct. Jesus noticed this. “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words, of them the Son of Man will be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” (Luke 9:24-26) When is a Christian not a Christian? When their desire to be right, outweighs their desire to love.

As I was writing my story this week I noticed something in Luke 11 and 12. I noticed that Jesus didn’t have time for those Pharisees and Lawyers who just did religion to make themselves look good. Have you ever noticed that people like to use these passages to point out how people are not “Christian” because they just go to church and don’t actually believe? The odd thing is, Jesus gave specifics. He said you clean the outside of the cup but leave the inside dirty. He said that those who tithe to the church and do all of the religious Riga-ma-roll yet do not care for people were the ones who were not following him. He says woe to those who don’t let people think for themselves, but rather force them to believe what the person teaching believes. He goes on to tell stories about how people who try to close the doors to heaven were not followers of His. When is a Christian not a Christian? When they don’t follow Christ.

Maybe it got too confusing for people. Maybe they thought that you needed to be moral to get into heaven. Maybe the whole afterlife thing was made up to try to scare people into the church. Whatever the case may be, that was never the message. When considering morality what did Jesus do? He ate and drank with “sinners and prostitutes”. When asked what the most important commandments in the entire law were, what did Jesus say? “Love” Simply when it comes down to it WWJD (For those of you who were blessed enough to not live through that craze in the 90’s it stands for What Would Jesus Do?)? Jesus would love. Jesus did love. In fact, that is what the entire story is about! IT’S ABOUT LOVE! Jesus didn’t come to condemn people (John 3:17). Jesus didn’t come for us to follow the rules, but rather for us to understand the rules are there to help us love other people not enslave them by them (Luke 6). Jesus didn’t come that we may be slaves to some higher power, Jesus came that we may have life, and have it to the fullest (Luke 5 and John 10)! When is a Christian not a Christian? When they don’t love.

When did the message get off of Love? When did it become this whole loving someone so that they become a moral person business? NO!!! Jesus even said it a few times not to judge it’s right there in Luke 6 if you don’t believe me. Even with the whole turning the other cheek thing, that’s not about being a pushover. That’s about loving in a way that shows you are a human being too. That you have needs as well. That loving isn’t about changing the other person. It has never been about change. Change is the Divines business, not the churches. Something I learned from my Bop was that you don’t have to be present every day in someone’s life to show them that you love them. You don’t even have to say it. You just have to be there when they need something! It’s that simple. I needed shoes, he’d be there. Turning your cheek means you are willing tobe human to that person and turn the other side so they have to see you as human. That doesn’t mean staying in a relationship that is abusive. If someone is abusing you, get out. That is toxic. Love is not violent. Love is not complex. Love is love. No matter what.

So fellow Christian, ask yourself, “Am I loving people, without agenda?” If the answer is anything but yes, you are doing it wrong. That is decidedly unlike Christ, and therefore unchristian. If you are trying to close the “doors to heaven” and say those people cannot come in, that is unchristian. If you are saying that people who are “Pro-choice, LGBTQ+, Democrat, Republican, Independent, Muslim, Sikh, Jewish, Buddhist, or anything else” are evil, unclean, or whatever that’s not loving. I wrote about that, too. I’m going to make this very simple for you. Hate is hate. Love is love. Love is not sin, no matter what skin it’s in. Love can never be sin. Love is not hate. Hate dressed up as love is not love. Jesus even said ” I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35) When is a Christian a Christian? When they follow the Christ by loving one another.

I’ve seen a lot of bad theologians try to take Jesus’ and Paul’s words out of context. I’ve seen them use it to hurt people. I’ve seen those words dressed up so that they become hate. That, to me, is unchristian. I cannot say that they are not Christian, because who am I to say such. I just know that when there is bad fruit, the tree is bad. Maybe you have seen this too. Maybe this makes you want to leave the church altogether. Maybe you want to blame God for all of this. That’s okay. I understand. I see it too. I love that Jesus guy though. So despite what people say about Him, or try to turn Him into, I’m still going to follow him. To me, his message was very simple, “Love”. So that is what I do. I love. I love people and it hurts me to see them using the Christian Bible to hurt others. It hurts me to see that being used in an attempt to be right rather than the original purpose which was to heal. It hurts when Christians are not Christians. Maybe one day we’ll get this love thing right. So you are not alone in that hurt. I love you. You are not alone, You matter.

The Story of Esperanza Reyes: Chapter 12

Chapter 12

She was meditating in the morning. When she had looked up, one of her friends asked her, “Can you teach us to meet with the Divine?” She thought for a moment and said, “When you meditate quiet your mind and think on these things, Divine, who is both outside and within. May I love as you are love. May your love fill me so that all I need is provided for. Teach me to love like you do so that I may not harm any other. May I even love those who harmed me. I know it is easy to forget to love, may I not grow lazy or weary of loving. Which of you would turn away a friend in need? Even in the middle of the night? None of you would because they are your friends. It is like that with the Divine. The Divine is not a cosmic slot machine. Instead, the Divine is more like a parent. If your child asks you for a fish would you give a snake instead? Or what if your child asks for something to eat, would you give them rocks to eat? Though not all is within the Divine to supply. Meeting with the Divine is for you. It is for you to think about all your needs and questions, and quiet your mind for a possible answer.”

One day as she was curing a man who had an addiction, the crowd had been so impressed by her. There were some from the synagogue and the churches. They were terrified by her. “She must be from the devil. No one can just cure addictions! This power must come from hell.” She turned to them. “How can I be from the devil? Can the devil cast out the devil? A house divided against itself will tear itself apart. If the devil is divided against the devil how can he stand? If I cure things from hell, how can I do it in the name of the devil? What if you are wrong and I’m from the Divine? Wouldn’t that mean you are calling what is of the Divine, evil? I’m not doing this just as a parlor trick. I’m also looking to get to the reason he turned to drugs in the first place. If I just cure his addiction, he will eventually go back, because there is something that caused this to happen. So instead maybe if you asked how you could help this man stay clean and cure the deeper pains, maybe you would see the Divine in what I do.” Those who called her the devil, became angry. “Give us a sign then, to show us that you are from the Divine.” She rolled her eyes and sighed heavily. “Why do all of you place the burden of proof upon me? You are the ones who called me the devil. Maybe you are the ones who need to prove what you say.” She took the opportunity to teach a lesson about Jonah. “The people of Nineveh were despised and said to be of the devil, yet they ended up listening and understanding the error of their ways. How would you believe you were wrong even if I show you a sign? Would you purposely hide good things, just so that you would be right? Be careful when you deny the good that you not fall farther into evil yourself. You pretend very well to be good, but even as the prophet Isaiah said ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’ You deny the love of the Divine in order to look good in front of other people. You may keep your traditions. I’ll follow love. These people from the synagogues and churches are the type of people who are all about looking good in front of others. That’s like washing the outsides of dishes, but not the inside. Seriously, You tithe your money, but you completely neglect the justice and love of the Divine. Those were the important things that you forgot about in order to look good.  You love the best seats in the synagogues and churches, woe to you. You are like makeup on a pig, woe to you.” A lawyer stopped her to point out, “Teacher, by saying this aren’t you also judging us?” But she went on, “Woe to you lawyers also! You and those like you load men with burdens hard to bear, yet don’t help one iota with those burdens at all. You, the priests, and rabbi all hold fast to these rules and regulations that cause nothing but anxiety and pain for people. You didn’t listen to those who came before me. Instead you killed and silenced all who spoke against your evil, greed, and corruption. You have taken away the key of knowledge and treat those who follow you like idiots. Yet you do not know anything about that which you proclaim to know either!” As she said this she walked out of the venue in which she was teaching. From that point on those she spoke against conspired to silence her.

She met during this time with her friends. “Beware of these lawyers, priests, and rabbi they are going to lead many away from the Divine with their words, but it is just so much hypocrisy. The truth will always come to light though. Nothing that is hidden will stay that way for long. They may want to kill or silence you in other ways, but the ideas the truths will come out. Do not worry about them, because the Divine will not forget about you. The Divine knows that you know and speak the truth. You are special in the Divine’s eyes. People can say what they want about me, but those who speak against what the Divine is doing in you, they better watch out. The Divine will be with you, even when they try to kill or silence you.”

<  Chapter 11  |  Chapter 13  >

The Honest Faith: Who We Longed to Be

I have to start this post off with an apology. I’m sorry. I’m sorry if my recent posts have offended you or upset you in any way. I understand that getting a rise out of people is the easiest way for people to see a problem, yet it may not be the best way. I understand how it may make people feel, but I should also note that I have a right to how I feel as well. I am angry. That’s okay. I’m angry about so much of what is going on in the world. I’m angry that people are using the name of my faith, my religion to commit all kinds of atrocities and cover up horrible treatment of our fellow-man all in the guise that it is a religious thing to do? I’m angry because this is not the world I want. This is not the world I believe Jesus wants. I imagine the Divine is angry as well, not that people are “sinful” but that we have strayed so far from the Love that was taught to us.

Who did you long to be? A friend of mine commented on a post recently. I posted on a forum about how I’ve been trying to be kinder. How I feel that arguments recently are just producing so much hurt and division in and of themselves rather than helping someone view a different side. I talked about it in relation to Christianity. About how to have a conversation with someone who thinks I’m a heretic because I believe in love for all. She said that Christians have claimed for a long time to treat people with love, kindness, and acceptance yet all the while judged them for who they were. She said in order to have a conversation with them maybe be what it was we only pretended to be or to put it more kindly “Who we longed to be”. I loved that phrase. That resonated so much with me. Who did I long to be? Who do you long to be? Do you long to treat others with kindness, love, and acceptance no matter what? Or do you only pretend at it?

This brought me to my apology. I feel as though my raw anger without a filter can send the wrong message. It says that I don’t desire to be in conversation with you, but rather I “hate” what it is you think is the best way. That is not true. I disagree with you, but it does not mean that I hate you or whatever it is. What I truly despise is the evil, corruption, and mistreatment that masquerades as Christianity these days. It is so much bad theology. As I have stated before, Jesus never once taught us to hate. Yet, we put that work in his and the Divine’s mouths so much. God hates (fill in the blank). But anger does not equal hate. Anger is an emotion. It’s okay to feel angry. Anger can lead to action. Anger is not a sin. It is a sign that something is wrong. When it is directed in the wrong way, yes it can lead to some pretty messed up shenanigans. Though, in and of itself, anger is fine. I realized that I needed to temper that anger into something more useful rather than the rough edges that have been showing recently. Unless it drives you to do something anger may stagnate and turn to hate. Unless it is tempered and used in constructive ways it can only bring destruction. I longed to be a better person. I longed to show my son that anger can be useful when tempered and funneled correctly.

Have you ever felt a longing? Do you know what it is to long for something? We again throw the word around as if it’s just a want. But it is deeper than that. A yearning desire is wanting something so bad it hurts. Have you ever wanted something like that? I remember when I was a child I really wanted the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Party 51382Wagon. I mean I really wanted it. Every time one of my friends got it I was so super jealous. I loved the flip-out door and the little seat that you see Raphael in. I had so many Action figures that I made most toy stores look understocked, but I didn’t have this. Even then, I don’t believe that would be called longing. I think that longing is more what I call Faith these days. I think so often people make faith synonymous with trust, but I think it’s really much different. As you know, I’ve used a quote about faith ad-nauseum on my blog, in the podcast, and even the book. So I’m not going to repeat it. But I think that faith is a longing for the world to be better. For us to be better. For people to truly understand what it is to love, and then only then may we begin to see the Divine. For as the first epistle of John puts it, “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him.”

There is a common hymn that is sung to the point where it makes my ears bleed every time I hear it now. It says “As the deer panteth for the water so my soul longeth after thee.” Does your soul long for the Divine? Do you truly long for love and harmony with all things? Do you think that getting upset at football players taking a knee during an anthem is disrespectful or not being done out of love for something? Do you feel that not making a cake for a wedding because the couple doesn’t look traditional to you is love? Do you feel that banning something because you don’t understand it is loving? As I mentioned last week, caring is more than just a feeling. So is love. Love is Divine. Love is Love. As St. Paul described it in his letter to the Corinthians,” Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” Love is hard. To embody this is hard.

I remember growing up I was told our job as Christians was in the name itself. We were to be like Christ. Yet, I was also told that it was impossible to be like Christ. That’s a mixed message if I ever heard one. I don’t believe anymore that it is impossible. I believe that Yeshua Ben-Yoseph knew what it was to love. The longing was tempered and funneled into something useful. Yeshua showed us how to live in love. Yeshua ate with sinners. Yeshua had tax collectors follow him. Yeshua spoke to the woman at the well, when all others dismissed her as an adulterer. Yeshua didn’t judge the woman caught in adultery brought to him. Yeshua taught that no greater love has any man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends. Yeshua laid down his life for his friends. You may ask who are these friends, well Yeshua taught us in Luke. The good Samaritan was his example, what would a modern-day Samaritan look like? I imagined it to be akin to an illegal immigrant who risks everything to help out the man on the side of the road. It would be the Muslim who helps interpret for American soldiers despite the threats to his family. It would be the Black man who stops to help out a police officer who is beaten and bloody. It would be the lesbian woman who bakes and decorates a beautiful cake for a heterosexual evangelical wedding that she wouldn’t be invited to. It’s the trans person in the military fighting for the rights of the people in this country. Those are the people who would look like friends. Those are the people we are to lay our lives down for. The good Samaritans.

I long for that. I want to be that. I want to be a person who lays his life down even for those I disagree with. I long to see a world where my son can grow up and see the true heroes. A world where people are kind and loving. A world where small disagreements do not bring hate and division but instead lead to the making of a better tomorrow. So may we love without condition. May we see that we are not alone and we matter. May we be the people we long to be. You are not alone, You matter!

The Story Of Esperanza Reyes: Chapter 11

Chapter 11

One day, an argument arose amove her friends as to which one was the greatest among them. As soon as Esperanza arrived, they suddenly fell quiet. She asked them, “What were you discussing before I got here?” She sat with them. They avoided eye contact and didn’t say anything. She shook her head sadly and said, “If you want to be the greatest, you have to be willing to be the worst and help all.” As they were gathered in a park there were children playing on a playground nearby. “See how they play together? They don’t hate. They don’t discriminate. They play with each other because they see each other for what they are, other kids. Unless you see your fellow human being as human, it will be difficult to bring about the Kingdom. If you love others like a child loves others, you have truly seen the Kingdom.”

John spoke up, “Teacher, we saw a man on YouTube curing addiction in your name, we left several comments telling him that it was your thing.” Esperanza turned to him with a twinkle in her eye and a small smile. “Don’t stop him. If he is doing good things in my name he wouldn’t be able to say bad things about me, would he? Those who aren’t actively fighting against us is for us. Really, if anyone gives you even a glass of water in my name they will be rewarded.

As they were walking through town one day a man said to her, “I will follow you wherever you go.” and Esperanza said to him,” Birds have nests, Foxes have holes, but I have no place to call my home. Suddenly crestfallen the man said, “Let me first go and bury my father.” She looked at him softly, “Let the dead bury their dead. I’ve come to give life and give it for the living.” After this, there was a gathering of new followers that was seemingly innumerable and quite diverse. They represented almost every nation, and every single label imaginable. She commissioned them and sent them out in groups of 2 to the cities of Texas so that all may hear that the Divine has not given up on them. She said to them. “Many are ready to hear that the Divine is here and loves without condition, but not many are ready to speak it. Go and share with people that love, by being that love. But be careful as many revel in the hate they claim to be against. They will disguise that hate as love, but it is not. I send you out as lambs among wolves. Be wise, be careful, and don’t let the bastards grind you down. Don’t take anything with you. Let those who greet you and take care of you, take care of you. Be a gracious guest in the places that welcome you. Show them love and kindness, as they are showing to you. Share the love of the Divine with them as they are doing so with you. When you come to a place that does not welcome you, let them know that Love is on its way. They should know that the Divine waits for them to realize this. You have planted a seed, but move on as they are suffering. Those that hear you, hear the Divine. Those that reject you reject the Divine.”

After Esperanza sent out the groups, she was approached by a lawyer. This lawyer was looking to trip her up as he was sent by the Jesuit priests and rabbis. He asked her, “Ms. Reyes, I was wondering, what do you believe to be the greatest law of all?” Esperanza looked at him and smiled. She said simply, “Love.” He asked her to explain. She said to him, “Love the Divine with all that you are and all that is within you. You do so by also showing love to those around you, and even yourself.” The lawyer said to her, “I see that you are correct.” She placed a hand on his shoulder and said, “Do this, and you will have life.” He, regaining his mental footing, asked, “Who are those around me that I should love?” Esperanza smiled yet again and replied, “Suppose a man was hitchhiking from Austin to Dallas. Let’s say he got into the wrong car and was mugged and left on the side of the interstate. Most drivers would not stop and would just pretend not to see the man beaten and bloody by the side of the road. Let’s suppose a priest was driving up that interstate, he would stop to help, but he was wearing his vestments and was late for a service so he changes lanes and drives on. How about a professor of law? Normally, he would stop and help, but this could be a trap. So he sends his thoughts and prayers to the man in case it is and changes lanes to drive on. But an illegal immigrant is driving up the interstate and spots the man. He pulls his vehicle over and gets out to help the man. He finds some towels in his truck and gives first aid the best that he is able to. He puts him in the passenger seat and drives him to the nearest hospital. Now, where the priest and professor this would only cost them some time, this man risks all that he has, even imprisonment to get this man help. At the hospital, he gives all the money that is in his wallet and gives his phone number for when the bill comes due. Which of these three displayed love of the Divine, do you imagine?” The lawyer said, “The one who showed mercy and kindness.” She again smiled and said, “Go and be like the immigrant.”

Esperanza was exhausted and went to stay with Mary and her sister Martha. Mary sat with Esperanza joking and laughing while Martha was preparing a meal and getting the house ready. Martha came into the room in a huff, “Mary! Do you not care that we have a guest and I’m doing all of this by myself? Esperanza, tell her to help me!” Esperanza bit back a laugh, got up and hugged Martha. “My dear friend, it’s okay. Really! I’m exhausted and I don’t need much. I don’t care about how something looks, I’m just happy to be with friends.” Martha calmed down and apologized, Mary got up and helped finish the meal. They all sat and ate and laughed that night.

<  Chapter 10  |  Chapter 12  >

The Honest Faith: Why Don’t You Care?

::Disclaimer:: I am not addressing this to anyone in particular. I do this because we are all guilty. I don’t aim to make anyone feel bad or guilty either, we have enough voices doing that. I write this to maybe, just maybe, open your eyes to a new perspective. As always I ask that you take a moment. Take a breath. Rid yourself of all preconceived notions. Sit back in your chair. Just be. You are not what you were. What you do from this point going forward is what matters. ::Disclaimer over::

I’m not going to lie. It has been a rough week. We have lived through the aftermath of hurricanes, shootings, and people getting super upset about footballers having something to say and not just being objects of entertainment. It’s emotionally and mentally exhausting to care. Especially when you feel like nobody cares about you, or what you have to say. It wears you down. To the point where you don’t want to care anymore. So what’s the point then, why care? If all it brings is more misery, and nothing is going to change, why even bother?

What do I mean when I say care? I mean it for all real definitions of the word. It is more than just a feeling it is the serious attention and consideration. It is the provision for the well-being of another. It is also the looking after the other and looking out for their well-being. The feeling in itself is a good thing, but feeling without action is meaningless. (James 2:26)

Why should we care about Black Lives Matter, God before Guns, Everytown for Gun Safety, whatever the president is on about, the removal of Confederate monuments, trigger words, the latest Twitter feud, what your parents have to say about your “political” posts on social media, and so on? Isn’t it all just meaningless? I know all that I listed were not equivalent. They are not supposed to be. That’s the point. I’m weary too. I know that it’s hard to fight for people. I know that it’s tough to give a crap about what people are going through. I know. I know this because I do. I give a crap about people. I give a crap about what people think and feel.

An amazing artist known as Logic wrote an amazing song called “Black Spiderman” in it he has a few lines that say:

I don’t wanna be black, I don’t wanna be white,
I just wanna be a man today
I don’t wanna be a Christian, Muslim, gay, straight, or bi,
see you later, bye

These lyrics are telling about how tiring and crazy it is to worry about these labels. We keep drawing lines in the sand and saying, “I only care about the people on this side of the line.” I’ve been seeing some crazy posts about things like taking care of our own or accusing those who happen to disagree with you of being hateful or cruel. We continue the hate that we so loudly say we want to stop.

Did any of the labels in Logic’s song set you off? Why? Why should you care about what a musician has to say? Which word was it? Why not care about that person? See, the funny thing is people you know and love are a part of these groups. They may choose not to tell you that they are gay, or bi. They may choose not to tell you that they can’t identify as Christian anymore. I think you don’t need to be told about surface stuff.  I bring this up because we have a few major problems that are threatening at the door right now. I brought this up two years ago in a piece called “Enough is Enough.” In that post, I wrote about how I’m tired. I’m tired of hearing the same old story after every mass shooting in this country. I’m sick of hearing about how we shouldn’t care because nothing is going to change. But the opposite is true if you care things will change. The thing is I want to know why? Why is nothing going to change? Have we even tried? Have we thought of trying? We again hear these old, tired cliches of “Oh, we need prayer” or “We need God”. I’m sorry but that hasn’t changed anything.

Do you think God wasn’t at Sandy Hook Elementary? Do you think God was not in Columbine? Do you think that God wasn’t present in that theater in Aurora? Do you think that God wasn’t in Vegas? Do you really believe that?

Here, how about this question: how many lives saved would be worth changing some things? I’m asking because we know how many lives are being taken right now with nothing being done. If putting gun regulations in place would save just one life, would it be worth it? What about climate change? What if we were to save the life of one endangered animal or future human being, wouldn’t that make it worth the sacrifice? Isn’t this what Jesus taught? So ask yourself, why should I care?

Dr. Seuss wrote an often-quoted line in the book The Lorax. It goes like this, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” The reason I care, the reason so many of us “Bleeding heart, liberal snowflakes” care is because we know that unless we do, nothing is going to change. We want the same things everyone else does. We want our children to be safe. We want them to grow up in a world that can sustain their lives. We want our friends, loved ones, and families to have the same opportunities and chances at life that we had. Quite frankly, that makes all the tiny little inconveniences worth it.

I don’t care about labels. I’m Mexican and I’m white. I have a white wife. But I don’t want to be just that to people. I’m Christian, and, God help me, I don’t want to be that to people – especially right now. I’m straight and cis male, and I don’t want to be just that either. The truth is I just want to be a person who cares an awful lot. This week I was writing in my ongoing project to write a modern Gospel tale. This was the passage that Jesus said to his followers: unless you are willing to take up your cross daily, you will not find life. (Luke 9:23) I think what Jesus meant was that unless we are willing to suffer and die daily for those around us we will never be able to truly live, love, or understand all the incredible things that have been given to us. So label me what you want, I’m willing to suffer and even die for my fellow man. So that my son may grow up in a world that hopefully will be somewhat better than the one I currently see around me.

Caring is hard. It’s weary work. Because it feels like people will put you into boxes and say that you can’t care about people in the other box. The truth is there are no boxes. We are all human beings. WE ARE ALL HUMAN BEINGS! The sooner we realize that and stop with this ridiculous nonsense of “Us and Them,” we’ll begin to see that in order for us to complete this task we’ve been set to, Tikkun Olam: repairing the world, we need to begin to recognize the Divine in each other. Maybe the way to stop the hate, to stop the pain, to stop all of this crap going on around us is we need to care, even just a little. Because we need you. We need you to care. Every one needs you to care. We are all human beings. We are all in this together. Whatever hurts you, hurts us all. Whatever hurts someone else, hurts you too.

When someone speaks out about something, maybe instead of pointing out where they are wrong, give a moment and care about what they care about. See it from their perspective. Ask them why they care about it. Maybe, just maybe, it will help you to care about what they do. Maybe you will see why caring is important. Maybe instead of labeling someone before you hear what they have to say, you take a moment and listen to what they have to say. I’m not saying that you should change your mind on everything, just hear someone out. Listen to what they have to say, maybe it would change your mind. Maybe they don’t care. I’m just asking that you care, at least a little bit. I ask because unless someone like you cares an awful lot, nothing is going to change. We need to change. We need to make this world better. We have been tasked with Tikkun Olam, repairing the world. We need you. Because you are not alone, you matter.

The Story of Esperanza Reyes: Chapter 10

Chapter 10

Esperanza called the group of twelve together. She taught them to cure addiction and free minds from the hells we put them through. She sent them out to teach about the Divine and the Divine’s love and to heal. She said to them, “Don’t take anything with you. Where ever you go be there. Be present where you are and with whom you are. When people refuse you and your lessons, don’t look back. It is their own problem. Wipe the dust from your feet as you go, for you did what you could.” The twelve went out and taught in different places about the Divine’s love, and healed people. They freed minds and cured addiction.

Now the governor of Texas heard of what was being done. This was following the imprisonment and execution of Juan the preacher. There were stories that these acts were done by Juan’s ghost back from the dead. Some had said it was Yeshua Ben-Yosef back to redirect us. The governor said, “Juan I had put to death; but who is this about whom I hear?” and he sought to see her.

When the twelve returned, they told Esperanza what they had done. She retreated with them to a city nearby. When the people heard where they were they followed. When she saw the crowd she welcomed them. She began teaching of the Divine’s love. She cured those who needed healing, just sat and talked with those who needed an ear, and taught some more. It got to be rather late in the evening and the twelve came to converse with her. “Send the crowd home, it’s getting late and they have to be hungry, we can’t have them all sleeping in this field.” She turned to them and said, “Don’t send them away hungry, let’s give them something to eat.” They replied, “We don’t have enough money at the moment to feed this crowd. There has to be more than 10,000 men, women, and children here. The most food we’ve seen is that family over there with three loaves of bread and two cans of tuna fish.” She said to them, “Have them sit down in groups of around 50 each.” The twelve did so. Esperanza asked the family for the food. She held it up and blessed it and began making tuna fish sandwiches. She started handing them to the twelve to distribute, as she did more and more people started pulling food from bags and distributing it to their groups and the groups around them. The crowd had enough food to go around and then some. They took up all the leftovers and had twelve buckets full after everyone ate their fill.

A short time later, Esperanza was off meditating on her own when the twelve met up with her. “What do people say about me?” she asked as they arrived. They answered, “Some are saying you are a student of Juan your cousin, some are calling you the second coming of Yeshua Ben-Yosef.” She looked at them, “What about you all, what do you say about me?” Peter looked at her sternly in the face, “You are the chosen one, the Messiah. The Daughter of the Divine.” She looked down weightily and told them not to tell anyone. She said, “The Messiah was meant to suffer many things. The Messiah is to be rejected by leaders, priests, and rabbis. The Messiah is meant to be killed…” She trailed off. Peter spoke up immediately, “No, that’s not true. That can’t be.” She looked up with tears in her eyes, “Stop, it is. People will not understand unless it happens this way. If anyone will follow me, they need to be willing to suffer and die every day for these truths. If you are only out to save your own life, what good does that do? If you are willing to suffer and die for the Divine love of all you surely find life. There will be those who will be ashamed of this message of radical love. I am ashamed of them. You will see the kingdom of the Divine, it will happen in your lifetime if you make it.”

Eight days after this conversation Esperanza went up on the hill she had been retreating to in the beginning. She took Peter, John, and Iago with her to the mountain to meditate. As they were meditating Esperanza began to transform. Her body seemed to glow and it was if she was radiating a dazzling bright light. This light encompassed them all and suddenly there was with them two others. There were two middle eastern men with her. One was older and held a staff the other was younger and looked like the paintings of Yeshua. They spoke with Esperanza and talked of suffering and death that was to come. Peter spoke up, “Rabbi, It’s amazing that they are here. We can build three temples here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Yeshua.” Peter was afraid and felt like he needed to do something here on this holy spot. Suddenly the wind picked up and they all could hear a voice on the wind saying, “This is my Daughter, my chosen one; listen to her!” As soon as the wind started it stopped. As soon as the wind stopped and they found Esperanza alone. They did not tell anyone of this encounter until after the story had ended.

The next day, the group came down from the hill. A large crowd was gathered in the parking lot of the campground. A woman from the crowd cried out, “RABBI! I beg you to come to my son. He is my only child and he has been gripped with addiction. I’m afraid for his life, it’s gotten so bad I can’t wake him anymore. I begged your friends to help but they could not cure him.” Esperanza wearily looked at the mother, “I’m sorry they couldn’t do it. Bring him here.” The mother went over to her car where her son was laying in the back seat. A few people helped him out of the vehicle where he was babbling and over to her. Esperanza asked the mother, “How long has he been like this?” She responded, “He started taking prescription painkillers after a sports injury. It has gotten worse over the past year. He’s almost died a few times now. Please help him. I can’t lose him.” Esperanza said to her, “All things are possible, just not everything is probable. Do you believe I can do this?” The mother turned to her. “I think so, I’ve tried everything. Help me believe.” Esperanza hugged the young man and immediately his body regained strength. His babbling stopped and he began to weep silently. She gave him over to his mother and turned to leave. Peter, Iago, and John looked at her dumbfounded. She said to them, “Don’t forget, I’m meant to suffer and die.” They stood in shock and did not understand what she meant. They were afraid to ask her about this.

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