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  >

Please follow and like us:

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  >

Please follow and like us:

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!

Please follow and like us:

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!

Please follow and like us:

Honest Faith: Rebel Jesus

If you’ve been following my blog recently you know that I’ve been plagued by a question, “Do you not want to be a Christian anymore?”. I guess that’s what the Honest Faith series has been all about. Trying to find my way back to something resembling belief in a Divine being. As with any transition in life, I’ve been sorting through everything to figure out what I want to keep, and what is just so much fluff. Maybe that’s why I’ve been on my 80’s and 90’s CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) kick recently. I’ve been especially thinking about Jesus and the images presented by the Gospel narratives.

Stripping away all of the myths and hype (would that be the right word?) surrounding Yeshua Ben Yosef. You have an amazing story of this boy born to a family of nobodies, schooled the religious muckety-mucks at the age of 12, and grew up to start a non-violent (not counting the whole temple table turning thing) rebellion in his 30’s. This is a teacher, leader, and a man that I would still follow even if He turned out not to be the Godman that he claimed to be. His teachings alone show a deep understanding of the Divine. I love this guy! Seriously, That whole thing with the lame (literal, not figurative lame) guy who was lowered through the ceiling by his friends. When He, Yeshua, heals the guy and throws some major shade at the religious teachers who were there… Man, that was Bad-ASS. So, yes, I want to be a Christ follower, but I don’t want to be like the Christians.

Another amazing man who let a non-violent rebellion, Mahatma Gandhi, has a famous quote attributed to him, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” I am not sure if he really said that, but it sounds good. I, like this quote, like Christ. Not just like, love. I want to be like the Man in all that I do and say. There is an embarrassing story about my brother growing up. I’m not going to tell it because it’s his story to tell not mine. But there is one line from that story that rings very true for me still. After the incident, He looks up at my mom and says, “I wanted to look like Jesus.” The funny thing about the Gandhi quote to me is that there was a man who was decidedly not “Christian” but looked like Jesus in his actions and words. I want to be like Gandhi, I want to be like Christ.

Jesus, by all accounts, was a rebel. He wasn’t this white, long haired, gently petting a lamb, ripped (“Brah, Doth thou even hoist?”),146110069_5100727239_z and clean person we so often see in depictions of him. In the Gospels and other places, he was called a glutton and worse. He was a middle eastern man, who didn’t care about public images, that hung out with 12 other men (we don’t hear about the women, but from the narratives, I can imagine Martha and Mary hung out with them often). He was crucified because he started a non-violent rebellion that put the religious power structure at risk. I imagine that he probably wasn’t the gentle safe person to be around so many modern “Christians” portray Him to be. I imagine it was probably pretty dangerous hanging out with this guy. Even though he was non-violent, I’m sure that others used violence to make their counterpoints against him. In fact, the stories of the disciples and saints following the crucifixion show that people were not very friendly to the message of Jesus. Even Judas, who gets a really bad rap, wanted Jesus to fit into his image of what a rebellion leader should be; a violent strategist who would kick the Romans out of Isreal.  His message was what was so dangerous.

Jesus’ message was simple. “The Kingdom of God is here”. He told stories of what the Kingdom was like, and how we were meant to be a part of the kingdom. He told us so many things, but ultimately the Gospel was that the kingdom is here and now. We, His followers, are meant to be the arbiters of that Kingdom showing all we interact with that the Kingdom is here and now. The most dangerous thing about the message was that it was so counter to even our modern society that it put the power structures at risk. Jesus taught that there was no power hierarchy. That in the Kingdom, all were free, all were equal (opportunely speaking), there would be no more suffering; there would be no more corruption, greed, or injustice. That is worth standing up for. That is a rebellion I want to be a part of.

Right now in my country, we are facing some major issues of power being misused. It, in my opinion, is being used to mistreat, marginalize, and demonize others. It is using fear, mistrust, and societal anxieties to justify the misuse of power. There are many that recognize this and have begun the work of standing up and speaking truth to power. There are a select few that have used violent means to do so, and I do not agree with those methods. But I do believe that those who are non-violently rebelling are doing the true Kingdom work. They are standing up for those things that Jesus taught were a part of the Kingdom. They are standing up for justice, freedom, and equality. They are standing up for love.

I want to look like Jesus. I want to look like Gandhi. I want it said of me that despite all odds and so many hateful voices to the contrary, I stood up for love. I resist, I rebel because it is the right thing to do. It is the right thing because it is standing against hate, fear, and injustice. It is the right thing because it gives my fellow man, animal, and creation a chance to be a part of the Kingdom with me. I may not want to be Christian, but I certainly want to be a Christ follower. So, reader, may you be like Christ, and join the rebellion.

Rebel Jesus

Please follow and like us:

Screaming Into the Void

Sometimes, it all feels like too much. I didn’t add the Honest Faith tag to this blog post because at the moment, I’m not exactly sure how this relates to my journey of rediscovering faith. I’m overwhelmed, saddened, and at a loss. I took this picture today of this saint in a stained glass window. This is a part of a larger piece of work depicting Jesus being arrested in the garden. I feel like him. I don’t know what to do.

You see, I feel like I’m screaming into the void. Like nothing I do or say really matters all that much. Like I’m yelling at distant clouds. I feel this way because I see so many people tearing each other apart in the name of politics, perceived lapses of morality, a small disagreement, or ultimately a lack of understanding. I disagree with people, sure. I have seen a lot I disagree with on social media recently. It is taking a lot of self-restraint to not post on every little thing I see that I disapprove of. I feel like I’m the only one restraining myself, though, and for what?

I write about my struggle to find the Divine. I write about my quest to repair the world. I write about this all because I want someone to maybe join me. I want it to make a difference and to maybe not feel so alone on this path. I know this path isn’t easy at this point in time. But when will it ever be? There is no easier time, there is only now. Especially now when the world needs us to repair the most, in my humble opinion.

One thing that is driving me to not want to go back to Christianity at all is what I see Christian people doing on social media. I see them mocking, in retaliation to an imagined slight to their morality. The biggest problem with this is the one thing I’ve had my fill of. For some reason, Christians are tearing other  Christians apart. Because some marched with women this weekend. They were upset because there happened to be some anti-abortion folk that felt unwelcome to put forward their own agenda.  The problem is that I’m sure the organizers didn’t want that to be the only agenda. As I watched in solidarity with those marching I saw that there was no one agenda aside from human rights. There were some who were rallying against the person who was elected president. There were some who unfunnily joked about violent acts against him. There were those who wanted to make sure their voice was heard. I would say the latter was the vast majority of those who were there. Yet, still, the Christian groups are tearing themselves apart because of this and other such slights.

The reason this has me so dismayed is because I know that God is not in the business of building walls. The Divine is about building bridges. About bringing people together. Instead, it seems that the gods of fear, hate, divisiveness, and pain are gaining in the spiritual zeitgeist.

I feel like I’m not allowed to have an opinion or else I am called a “special snowflake”, or “over-opinionated”, or “elitist”, or any other random name that people come up with to shut down the conversation. It’s not just me either. I am seeing this on all sides people calling each other names and pointing fingers in order to shut down the conversation. People are having arguments rather than debates and discussions. It doesn’t matter what side of the political spectrum they are, a lot of people are guilty of this. Yes, you are all entitled to your own opinion, but you would also be wise to listen to the opinions of those around you. Wisdom is learning from others.

Granted, I am no fan of our current political climate. I am not a fan a lot of what is going on in our country at the moment. But I’m trying to keep a lot of my opinions to myself to help build bridges. The problem with that is it seems nobody else wants to build bridges right now. I could just throw in the towel and say screw it I don’t want to associate with ya’ll anymore, but then I would be guilty of doing the exact thing I’m railing against right now. I’m not a hypocrite, I’m as much a special snowflake as you are, I am a human being tasked with cleaning up a holy mess. SO ARE YOU.

So here is my spiritual point now. I’m going to, like Joshua, give you a call to action. Long ago your ancestors came to this country from beyond the oceans. They served other gods. You claimed to serve the Divine, yet you killed, stole, and destroyed. But still, you were blessed. Still, the Divine gave you chance after chance. So now it’s time to put away those old gods of fear, hate, division, scorn, and greed. It is time to come to the Divine. It is time to clean up this holy mess. Now if you are unwilling to serve the Divine, choose this day whom you will serve. As for me and my house, we will serve the Divine. We will serve the God of love, peace, patience, self-control, joy, kindness, gentleness, and generosity. As Paul said to the Galatians:

For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become beholden to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.

Granted, he was talking about temple prostitutes and sexual immorality there, but I think his point rings true in this as well.

So maybe I am just screaming into the void. Maybe what I have to say makes no difference whatsoever. But I hope it doesn’t. I hope that someone out there takes some hope or some inspiration from my words. I hope I’m not the only one who has been set toward a movement of “repairing the world with golden joinery”. Even if I am just screaming into the void, I’m going to keep doing it. I’m not going to remain silent because my voice matters too. Even if sometimes what I have to say is completely random. Even if I am a special snowflake. Even if you don’t like what I have to say. I’m going to continue to scream into the void. Choose this day whom you will serve, I am going to serve the Divine.

Please follow and like us:

I may be young, BUT…

More and more I’ve been seeing people accuse us millennials of being whiners or just plain coddled. Oh, and just so we are on the same page here this is what a millennial is. That’s right if you were born 1980-2000 I hate to tell you, but you are a millennial. You may not think you fit into the “mold” of a stereotypical millennial, but since when does anyone fit the stereotypes placed upon them? I’m not going to talk about why we millennials are great, I’ve already done that. I’m going to talk about why we can’t stay silent any longer.

At thirty-three years old, the last word I would use to describe myself is young. I don’t feel young. I’ve been through enough life to last a few lifetimes, and I know that I have a lot more life to go. The word is thrust upon us in an attempt to dismiss us or dismiss the ideas, and ideals we hold dear. The worst thing is those who are thrusting this word upon us are our loved ones, our parents, our teachers, our extended family. Now there is nothing wrong with the word young. In fact, I don’t mind being called young. I just don’t like when people use a word to generalize or dismiss a large group of people because they don’t think the same way. (See the last few weeks and last few years of news stories blaming millennials.)

I get why people want to dismiss us right now. We make up the large block of protesters and people who are upset at the election results in the United States. It’s easy to dismiss us as whiny, or angry. Heck, we are even doing it to each other. Half of Millennials voted democrat while the other half was mostly republican and third party. We’ve been pointing fingers at each other and calling each other names because we happened to vote for the “Hateful” or the “Corrupt” or the “Seriously, Him?” politician. Our nation is deeply divided and one of our favorite things to do as human beings, instead of actually sitting down and talking, is to point the finger and blame someone else. A lot of people, on all sides, are angry right now and somewhat rightly so.

Millennials are a generation that was raised to be accepting, to be tolerant, and try to get along no matter the differences. We grew up with tv-shows like Saved by the Bell, Family Matters, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Doug, Boy meets World, and so on. All shows that tried to be inclusive, some failing miserably and only having token minority characters. We grew up with books that were highly inclusive, Harry Potter (to name the major powerhouse). We were taught to believe in each other. That our differences of culture, skin color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or beliefs didn’t matter that much. We grew up believing that “All men (and women) were created equal.” In fact, the overwhelming majority of the population believe that phrase came from the Bible,  it doesn’t. We were raised to believe that this is what America stood for.

America, the land of the free, and home of the brave. We believed in that freedom, we believed in that inclusivity, we believed in our bravery, and we believed in each other. Until we discovered differently. This election brought to light a lot of horrible things that were already happening in this country. These things didn’t just start happening, they aren’t going to begin happening under the new presidential administration, they already have been happening. Granted, many millennials are upset without knowing why, but I think this is why we are upset. We are angry because the veil has been removed and we can see that the better world we were taught to believe in as children was a false nicety, and now we are called whiny for not realizing it sooner. The problem is we turned on each other and point fingers at each other because of this realization. The truth is it’s always been there. Here take a few minutes and listen to the man that became the most trusted journalist of our generation, despite the fact he’s a comedian:

We voted, great! Our civic duty was done. A lot of us didn’t vote, and yet still complain. Okay, I guess there is that too. But the last thing that we need right now is more division.

Just an aside to millennials now: Shape up! Grow up! A lot of us are in our 20’s and 30’s now. It’s time for us to stop fighting with each other over who’s fault it is that one candidate got elected over the other, the truth is we still would be if it happened the other way around. The truth is the ideas, and ideals we were brought up to believe in, are just that ideals. It is time for us to rise up. We are adults now. Let’s be adults. Let us see the injustices done to our fellow human beings and work to stop them. The hard disgusting truth is that we have never been the home of the free, and land of the brave. We have been the home of the marginally oppressed, and land of the perpetually terrified. So now we rise. We fight. We proclaim as one that we hold this truth to be self-evident that all people are created equal. Stop pointing fingers at each other, start sharing a table. Stop calling each other names, start calling each other on the phone. Stop engaging in arguments about who got us here in social media, start being social in the community and get to know your fellow man.

To the rest of you, non-millennials, stop dismissing us because we are young. We may be young, but we know a thing or two. We may be young, but you were the ones who raised us. We may be young, but we, like you did before us, are now fighting to make our world a better place for our children. We may disagree on how to get there, that’s okay. We may be frightened by different things than you are, that’s okay. We may be angry now, but we are rising soon. We are turning that into action, and if you want to help us in making this world a better place, join us. Get to know why we are angry, don’t dismiss it. Understand our point of view, and help us understand yours. We can’t make the world a better place without you. We need you. You’ve been here longer than we have. You know a thing or two. Help us, let us help you too.

I may be young, I may be upset, I may be many things, but I’m only getting started. I’m going to fight for the ideas and ideals I was raised to believe in. I’m going to continue to believe and fight for a world where we can see our fellow human beings as equals. I’m going to fight to make the world a better place to live in, for myself, my wife, my son, and you. Won’t you join me?

Please follow and like us:

The Problem with Superheroes

Last year I met up with a high school buddy of mine. We had done a bit of catching up and reminiscing. The conversation turned to the finer points of the two comic book giants, DC and MARVEL. He brought up an interesting point. He said that DC was the comic of those who were godlike in their power and set apart from humanity, those who were to be worshiped. He went on to say that MARVEL was for those who would become heroes; ordinary people, becoming heroes.  It was an interesting idea and one that I hadn’t thought about in that way. I think both have had a huge impact on society, and have changed us; whether we’d like to admit it or not. Though I think there has been a change made in us that is extremely dangerous.

We have come to expect heroes to come to our rescue. We put things off and expect someone else to do it. I think that this is partly the result of our laziness, and the result of the popularity of superhero culture. Granted, I’m not condemning it at all. I love superhero movies, comics, video games, etc. as much as the next guy. But when I think about it I see so much of this in our culture. Or we excuse our inaction by saying this problem is bigger than that problem. When asked who will take care of that problem it’s the same answer as above though, Somebody else.

What baffles me even further is that when someone does actually find that thing that they care about and want other people to care about it with them, they are attacked for not caring about issue b, c, or x. I don’t think we were built that way. Granted, I do care about a lot of issues, but it is impossible for us to take on everything. For instance, I may care about issue A and you may care about issue B. That doesn’t make either issue more important than the other. It means there are a lot of issues we need to take care of.

I have been thinking about all of this because of our recent state of affairs in this country, coupled with the manipulation and fear-mongering of media and social media. A lot of people are very afraid, and I totally get that. But as George R.R. Martin put it,

‘Can a man still be brave if he’s afraid?’
‘That is the only time a man can be brave,’ his father told him.

We shouldn’t let our fear rule us. We shouldn’t shut our doors and windows and believe that someone else is going to take care of the problems if we don’t. Because the truth is we were all made to be heroes in our own right. It’s your choice whether or not to be a hero or a villian.

I have seen a few viral posts going around about helping our countries veterans before we help our refugees. But one of the biggest and saddest truths, whether you admit it to yourself or not, is that almost none of those people who have posted that would lift a finger to help a veteran if they saw one. Why? Because they are afraid. I don’t like to be cynical, and in this instance I know a lot of people will instantly dismiss me thinking that I’m just being cynical. But the facts are there. Look at the statistics of support and help that they are receiving when they return. You can find article after article about both sides of the aisle politicians voting against veteran care bills. These are the people that we are expecting to “help” or to save from our current issues.

The hard sad truth is, we really don’t care. The American people have been conditioned to be afraid and complacent. It’s very sad. I can tell you that the majority of the outrage over things is just that outrage. No action ever comes from it, because we don’t hold our “heroes” accountable. Look at the approval rating for congress. It’s worse for the president who is actually trying to do things. Yet, we keep voting for them. Or maybe we don’t even vote. Because we want someone else to do it.

There is good news though. There is a being that believe in us. Some one who believes we can be heroes. A being that can fix everything with a snap of It’s fingers. I know this may sound like “pie in the sky” idealism, but I very much believe it to be true. The truth is you can do something to change the issues that impact you so deeply. The truth is there is nothing holding you back, but yourself. If you believe in an evil entity, that evil wants you to sit around and just be angry and not do something.

So get up! Be a hero! If you are outraged by red cups at your local coffee place, fine don’t shop there. Send the money you would have otherwise spent on coffee to your local VA. If you think that Veterans are more important than refugees, fine go and contact your senators, representatives, and other elected officials and tell them that they better take care of that legislation that needs their vote. AND in the meantime find a homeless veteran, take them in, give them a meal, help them get back on their feet. Don’t attack other people who care about other issues than you either. Because the truth is the world needs all of our help. EVEN YOU!!!! They will be working on another issue. I may care about refugees, and you may care about veterans, GREAT LET’S BOTH GET TO WORK!!!! So… BE BRAVE! BE COURAGEOUS! BE A HERO!

Edit: I had something that I decided I needed to add. I heard somewhere, if you change the world for one person, you have changed the entire world. So don’t think you can’t make a difference. There is something right near where you live that you can do to make a change in someone’s life. So go and do it! I will too.

Please follow and like us:

Learning to Love Pt. 2: Seeing the Go(o)d

Namaste

Finding God in All Things: The vision that Ignatius places at the beginning of the Exercises keeps sight of both the Creator and the creature, the One and the other swept along in the same movement of love. In it, God offers himself to humankind in an absolute way through the Son, and humankind responds in an absolute way by a total self-donation. There is no longer sacred or profane, natural or supernatural, mortification or prayer—because it is one and the same Spirit who brings it about that the Christian will “love God in all things—and all things in God.” Hence, Jesuits have always been active in the graphic and dramatic arts, literature and the sciences.”- Taken from the Wikipedia page on Ignatian Spirituality

I feel the next step in Learning to Love is being able to see the good that is there. Many of us when we are in the process of crawling out of those dark holes can only see the darkness and despair that got us there in the first place. Some of us have known nothing other than the darkness. We have chosen to let go. We have taken that first step into a new life, but things are suddenly feeling a lot darker. This is an equally difficult step to achieve. As I mentioned in part one we hear that call to move outside of our box. To view something outside of ourselves, but it meant letting go. We have let go, and that is incredibly scary. It’s very easy to feel alone, lost, and scared after doing so. I can’t count the times that I realized i needed to let go, did, and then went right back to holding on. I think to get over that fear we need to have a good focus point. Something to show us that not all is lost, and we aren’t as alone as we think we are.

Recently I have been facing a situation that has gotten me rather angry. I can admit that I really don’t feel like forgiving. I know that I need to let go of the desire to seek revenge and justice, but I just don’t want to. I know that when people hurt us it is very hard for us to let that go. But we need to. So I am going to let it go. But I want so much to run back to that place of being hurt and holding on to my anger and my right for revenge.

I think that when we feel that desire to go back, we need to find what it is that called us out of that place to begin with and focus on it. 2 years ago i was going through the “Ender’s Game” book series. I had just finished “Xenocide” in which the characters discover that there is a place “outside” of reality where there are beings that make up all of reality in a way. At this time a student of mine talked about her idea of God. She said that she thought that we were all ideas of God and that we all make up a part of God’s being. She wondered if all of creation wasn’t just a different manifestation of God’s being as it were. These two ideas got me to thinking. Maybe God is in everything. That God exists even where we can’t see God. Maybe God is everywhere in a way we never even thought about.

In college I had an amazing professor who had this uncanny ability to see God everywhere. She was someone I really wanted to be like. She had an ability to love and see past small faults with great ease. Anyway, whenever someone would state that something was good, she would say, “I know Him.” That above all she said has stuck with me. Even when things were bad she would try to find a way that God would be able to work through it, or with it. She, along with my mother, taught me what love really meant. It meant being able to see the good no matter the situation. Now, I’m not saying that we all need to be optimists, God forbid. I’m saying that even when things are at their worst, being able to see that there is a hope, a good that is out there working for you.

This is seeing the God in everything. I think that the next step in learning to love is to look for the good. Find the silver lining. Find what good may be able to come from whatever situation you are in. I know in some cases that can be very very difficult. But one of those things is that even when we have been struck down, we always come back stronger for it. For me that is a silver lining. That is God’s love. In my own situation that I am dealing with right now, I know that I need to remind myself to see the good in the people who hurt me. I need to remember that they are human beings too. That God loves them just as much as God loves me. They have that divine spark as well. How can I continue to wish bad upon a being that holds God in them as well.

I may be wrong, but I do believe that God is in everything. I do believe that God exists all around us, and so therefore we should be in harmony with all things. That may seem very hippy or whatever, but I think that it has merit to it. If God exists in nature, than why would you want to destroy that? Same thing with the situations, places, and people around you. Let go of whatever it is, and find the God. Focus on it. Head towards it.

Please follow and like us:

The End of Hate

“When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.” –John 21:15-19

“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral
begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy, instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.
Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth.
Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate.
Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
–Martin Luther King, Jr

This week is the anniversary of a lot of tragedies. Not only do we morn the losses in our history, but we have new tragedies that are very fresh in our memories. We weep with the people in Boston. We weep with those in Texas. We also weep with those who struggle with personal tragedies. I once wrote about wondering of God did cry. I think that God feels pain especially when we, God’s creation, suffer. This last summer I had the opportunity to visit the columbine memorial. This was only a week after the Aurora Shootings. I was greatly moved at that time. I wrote about that experience. I wept, as I did back then when it was unfolding before us on the news. Does God cry? Yes, I thing God does. I think that when we give in to hate, malice, violence, and evil to cure us from the same.

I feel the world is at a breaking point. Or maybe it’s just me. I feel that over the course of the last year we have seen too much. We have witnessed the mindless, and horrid taking of lives. We have witnessed the tragedies that happened through no fault of any one person, though we still seek someone to blame. I feel that in all that we suffer our first instinct is to find someone to blame. Someone or something to pin our anger on. That anger turns to hatred, and we end up continuing this cycle that leads to more of the same. We have found that the easiest path to take is the one that leads to destruction. It’s too hard to forgive. It’s too hard to love. We have used the words “Hate” and “love” so much that they have lost all their meaning. We have become numb. Desensitized to the motion and direction this carousel of hate takes us.

I have just returned from a youth retreat weekend. This was a mountain top experience for all involved. It’s weekends like this that really prove to me God’s love does exist. I saw a small group of teens and adults come fully into the loving embrace of the God that loves. It was beautiful. Words cannot describe how it is. I know that love. I strive to show that love. I often fail, but I try every single day. This love is so much bigger, stronger, better, and amazing than hate. It’s a lesson of mass construction.

A little over a week ago I gave a sermon about stepping outside of our box and going out to love. I believe the boxes we build for ourselves are built with labels, hate, and generalizations that help to wall us off from the outside world. I believe we all do this. I think that Christians as a whole are guilty of this too. We label people and justify our lack of love for them. Gay, Straight, Liberal, Conservative, Idiot, redneck, or whatever it may be we call others. Those labels create the bricks, and hate is mortar that glues it all together. We need to leave those boxes. God has already broken in and told us we are free.

I think we are living in a world that is in desperate need of the love we all preach about, and that I experienced. I feel we have sat in our little boxes for far too long. I believe the only way we could ever get off of this carousel of hate is to stand with the God that loves. The world needs people to love now more than ever. We need to stand against violence and hate of any kind. We need to say no more. We need to love. The world is falling apart and the only thing that can put it back together is love. I truly believe unless we begin to love, things will get a lot worse. Rise up! Love your fellow human being! They may be ugly, disgusting, or stinky; but they are a human being as well. They need love just like you and me. No one is exempt. God calls us to love. Will you answer the call?

Please follow and like us: