Saltiness: Limits of Love

Often, very often, I feel like I am not making a difference.  Despite doing or being what I believe I ought to be, results aren’t always obvious or existing.  Yet something recently has me wondering about “results”.

My husband and I use to live close my parents, and I’d make frequent visits. Yet after 5 years, it didn’t seem to make much difference one way or another. I didn’t see us as building a relationship. I noticed my dad couldn’t tell an observational difference between me and my siblings. My parents would confuse my husband’s saying or traits with the other men of the family. Despite our best efforts, and many not-so-best efforts, my parents didn’t seem to notice much in particular, and this became a wear on my husband and I. We’ve moved. Not the big move that I wanted, but a small couple hours drive time. It’s been near a half and year, and I’m starting to see the difference now. Although it’s not the difference I want to see.

My parents show signs of not having us an influence in their lives. I see things like fear becoming more normal for them. Slowly, but much too quickly. I see a shift from my influence of more natural approaches (which they barely considered before) to a more store bought, doctor induced philosophy.  It’s not that they didn’t have some signs before, but now it seems to have quickly built steam in my absence of pointing out how absurd it is.

Is that it? Is that all I do with my life? I block out some bad. Perhaps I don’t even particularly bring good into people’s lives, but maybe I just block out some of the bad. It seems so little. It seems so ineffectual.
I turn my thoughts from  my parents to my husband. His parents are negative people. I’ve always been displeased to see that displayed over and over again in our short history together. The effects their negativity has had on his life were infuriating. But as of lately I’ve seen my man becoming something greater. It’s taken a long time, a lot of work, and continuing to challenge him in healthy ways, but it becomes more and more obvious. He’s stronger in many ways. Still becoming strong in a few ways. We’re good together.

Is it because I’ve blocked some the poison in his life and challenged him towards good? Perhaps I’ve become the large influence in his life, the influence where his parents once had their vice grips. Is that all that I do? Block negative with my influence?  I suppose it’s a useful thing to be, however lacking in gloriousness. Then I wonder…
Is this (in part) what it’s like to be salt?

Jesus talks about being “the salt of the earth” and many pastors and theologians have puzzled over this simple parable. What does it mean? Indeed there is some flexibility to what all it could encompass, but perhaps simple is best in this case.
My man and I watch some of the Food Network “game shows”. If the judges detect too much salt it’s considered bad to have a salty flavor, or too little salt is considered unseasoned.  Salt is mostly to showcase whatever else is happening with the combined food. It’s not meant to be prominent but it necessary to the dish.

Salt is also considered to have trace minerals, things that your body needs but it doesn’t need a lot of it. These little “trace minerals” make a big difference when they’re out of sync with what your body needs, too much or too little. Subtleties set the standard.

In relationships (of all kinds) its hard to wait for the subtleties to draw forth into the standard. It’s hard to see it add up into something. When my husband and I were dating, I thought for sure that I was going to get my heart broken. I didn’t see him taking it as seriously as I did. I knew I was risking beyond what seemed reasonable or safe, but I felt compelled to keep going until I actually did break. It wasn’t until he confessed that he wanted to marry me (and therein we got engaged) that I felt sure that he was in this too, and not just for convenience sake.

Subtleties, small things, they add up. Probably never as fast and securely as I want them to, but they do add up.

If my greatest gift is merely blocking out some of the negative of other people’s live, that means its still their choice to choose the positives. I can’t choices or add that for them. I suppose I was hoping that I could also do that, but I do not think my life has given my evidence of that. I suppose there are many things which we are grateful that they mere neutralize a situation, such as our immune system.
However it’s up to each person whether to work that immune system hard or to give it help, and then what kind of help from there. This is complication of working together, yet our lives were made to touch one another and interlock.  I can only do and be that which I am.  I can only make my choices. Other people must make their own choices. I wish I could help, but this is as far as I can go in touching their lives.

I am just a little salt in gourmet dish.

God & Church are Not Synonymous: Pt 1

I think it’s taken me near 10 years to realize, that despite the Protestant Reformation 500 years ago, most people assume church and God are synonymous. They are not.  They never have been.

It took going back through the memories of being inside the church system to realize I believed it once. It was never spoken out right, but it has always been implied.

When I started weaning away from the church system my brothers had really critical things to say to me over the smallest detail. Stupid things that have stuck with me like thorns under the skin since that time. But I think I get it now. I think they saw the way I acted at or towards church was synonymous in their mind to how I was acting or respecting (or lack of {in their mind}) towards God. Not even that  it was connected, but it was a directly linked together in a full embodiment. If I didn’t mark the sign-in sheet correctly I was mocking God, not the sign-in sheets.

I never realized that this side of Protestant Reformation that there was still such a direct correlation in the minds of the masses of church goers. I mean I know that’s how masses of pastor think. I know the people are trained to associate the two. However, I just didn’t realize how much that is the reality within the church system.

There has long been this thought that if someone leaves their local church building and gathering times, that they’ve walked out on God. For many this does happen, because there is no separation between them.

I can’t emphasize enough that God and church are not synonymous.

Sometimes it takes looking at history to realize, that something that holds a scared title isn’t always what it seems. For me, the most simplistic words that really spelled this out for me was when Jesus said: “If you were Abraham’s children then you would act like it.” (John 8:39)

God judges someone by their heart, what’s on the inside, the true character which we develop within ourselves, our true motives and intentions. God sees that clearly. If that’s how God judges us, is it any different for an institution or an assembly of people?

God knows that our true intentions and our heart cause for us to do all things that flow out of us. All of our actions. The way we perceive people comes from our heart and our inner being. I believe this is also true for any system, corporation, community, assembly.

Now in a matter of speaking, a system has no heart, no inner being. Therefore those who align themselves with any given system become the heart therein. Yet so often we trade our minds & hearts for a go-with-the-flow mob mentality. We create a system to unify and drive us to our intend goal, but often it’s not long before we sacrifice our own goals, our own drive for the sake (health and sustaining) of the system.

I see this is still the reality of something called church. I too was part of  that once.

This is the strange thing about “church”:
It starts by saying that you can have a personal relationship with God. But then the whole time is spent telling you how to interpret God, how to serve God, how to do these things through more solidly aligning yourself with the local “church” and its “ministries”.  This happens so much so, that for those who actually do learn to grow and interpret on their own, they do not become the prize pupils, but instead are consider the ones who need to be corrected, or even broken in.
My husband and I have heard multiple stories like this. We’ve both been in these situations. We know it happens everywhere. It is not an isolated event.

We also know this isn’t God. This isn’t how God works. This isn’t the relationship that God had in mind.

A healthy body works together. Period. A body with auto-immune disease attacks itself. This is not consider healthy or normal. This is considered to be something that is in need of cure and of treatments, as there is often no known cures for many auto-immune diseases. Maybe especially spiritual ones which go unidentified. 

This thing calling itself church attacks itself. Am I to believe that is the resemblance of the body of Christ?

500 years ago (and more) there was something that was calling itself The Church. It was taught that this was the one way to know God, to honor God, to get to heaven, to be safe in this life, to be a responsible admirable citizen of your country. The Church was the guardians to Truth, or so it was taught.

But there arose men and women who disagreed with this thing called The Church. They disagreed that this system was not doing what it said it was meant to do. They disagreed that this system was honestly, openly, freely leading people Truth and to God.
To them the cruelties of the opposing a well-established system were unleashed. There was no mercy for such trouble makers. We are not too far removed from this history.

As a matter of fact, we maybe standing in the middle of an era where history repeats itself. We maybe at a crux of guarding and regarding the sacred words and descriptions back unto their true intentions. System or no system, when a people want to know God and want to know truth, there is an unquenchable thirst for the authentic thing.

Yet we have seen in history that the artificial thing will defend it’s stolen/assumed throne. The price for truth is high. Very, very high. Yet for something so priceless, we’d be fools to settle for anything less than the whole truth.

We can no longer bow our necks and bear this a little further in history. We cannot continue to plow for a master who is not our God. We must consider who and what we are truly serving. What do we truly fear? Whom do we truly want to serve? Are we interested in God? Or are we interested in our own rewards and security?

God and church are not synonymous. They never have been.

But woe to you … For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.
– Matthew 23:13

Faceless in a Selfie World

Sometimes when I scroll through my more recent pictures to see what I’ve essential recorded in history. Sometime while I’m looking I think to myself: where am I?  I’m just like everybody else in this modern age, I’ll take a photo of myself (now called selfies, used be called polaroids -just saying-), because I want be recorded, remember, or sometimes…just seen.

Pictures are amazing; photography (believe or not) is still an art. A beautiful, expressive art. I don’t just want my face or a place where I was recorded. I want some sort of beauty, isolation, joy, jest, contentment, some amount of invisibility recorded. I want someone to know what it’s like to be me. …but not so much for my own sake, anymore. But because I understand my life is so similar to so many.

If I feel this way, then I am not alone.

Sometimes I do feel like a picture is a way to relate. It’s not just about me, where I’ve been, or something incredible. Selfies aren’t always about vanity, peer pressure, or feeding the social media machine, but sometimes they can still capture something more. Sometimes they capture a light, or a missing light, within someone’s eyes. Sometimes the person is saying “I’m strong and confident” but I can see the loneliness of wanting to be seen, or wanting to be treasured, or wanting to share this life with other loved ones, or missing the actual nearness.

Our whole lives we create memories. Only a few are captured by pictures. Social media has allowed us to project an image of ourselves. Photo editors have allowed us to remold that image of ourselves. Likes, hearts, comments, and shares have allowed us to assume some companionship in a single moment that we didn’t actually share with all who participate in the this post-moment posting & commentation.

It’s like we can still attempt communal. Even when communal is just as lonely as it has always been …on our own.

In my own collection of pictures, I see that I get lost. I see once in a while my husband likes to tease me with a photo he snaps where I’m glaring or being goofy. …Then he post it for the rest of the world. I can’t convince him that no one else in the world thinks that I’m cute or beautiful in the way that he sees me. It’s unfathomable to him. Yet the when my face receives significantly less “likes” then a sunset picture or a goofy joke, what is one to think, but that I must be right? That I am more faded in the world of our “friends”.

Yet even with this… my pictures make me wonder how much am I participating in life? Or how much am I just a side observer myself?

In our modern age, we can connect to people miles away, but we can’t always stay connected to those who are geographically close to us. Old friends who aren’t social media savvy can fade, and new friends who socially stalk in-friendly-terms can seem better antiquated than what’s truthfully there. Yet it’s not just social media.

I can spend multiple days a week at my parents house, and barely know more than seeing my brother a few times a month or my other brother a few times a year. I can live an hour away from friends, and not see them for years, but make a special effort to see friends who live multiple hours away from us.

Community doesn’t just happen. We choose it. Capturing moments in life isn’t just the luck of being there, it’s being aware of the moment your in already. Cherishing what’s already in front of us.
Memories are made all the time, but we don’t always put them to mind. I am always here, but I can still feel as if I don’t exist without some acknowledgement of my existence.

Can I deal with less selfies, so that I can take more pictures of sunsets, long drives, quirkiness of nature, and a moment I lived but yet it didn’t involve me?  Can I deal with people saying “wow” “That’s beautiful” “awesome”  to those moments, when those same people don’t say “I miss you” “you’re beautiful” “I love my friend”?

It’s not a modern problem. It’s only a more instant problem in our modern age.

I think I can do this. I think I can acknowledge that I am here, even if I am unseen. I think I stand, even if it’s awkwardly, in a room in a moment in the isolation of the crowd. I think I can make through this day whether or not anyone else cares that I am here. I think that okay for today.
I’m not going to think about if I’ll have strength for silence tomorrow. Just today.  And if I need cheap friendship, I can always repost a meme.

But I want to be strong even if the world is silent towards me. Maybe just today…I can. This will be a memory: I made it.

Not Superheroes, Just Friends

About a month and half ago, a friend of ours confessed he need to turn himself in for DUI. We prayed with him and have prayed for him since then.  A few weeks after that, another friend told us about his agonizing relapse, we listened, and he asked us to pray he’d get into detox. Maybe a month later, a different friend of ours found out his wife was cheating on him and planning to leave him. We were able to be with him that day, and spent the night keeping him company and being available.

We’re not miracle workers. We don’t change the world with our prayers. But we believe this is who we are meant to be. We believe this is what resurrection life looks like. We are thankful for those who will let us know when their life isn’t perfect and they need some support. Not everyone will tell us, not everyone will let us help or pray or sit with them and listen. Not everyone can trust, hope, or call out for help. We are thankful that God has made these friends strong enough to include us.

Somehow, I don’t think people imagine this as the good Christian life. We don’t evangelize (as its known to be), we don’t seal them with cliches, we don’t tell them everything will be okay. We just try to be available, try to pray, try to believe with them.
…and personally I can’t imagine much else to be the “Christian thing to do”.

We’ve never once stopped to think or accuse the devil. We’ve not yet become overwhelmed. Instead we thank God that these fine people have entrusted us with their tough situations. We thank God that we’ve been able to look into their faces, and hear it from them. We’ve thanked God that we are able to pray with/for them, and fully believe God will strength the weak hands and feeble knees. We know they need the prayers. We all do.

My husband and I are searching for a new place to live, and it’s frustrating. We haven’t found an open door, and we start to get a little put out with God. What does he want from us anyway? We’re trying! Then something happens… not to us but to whom we love …and we get quiet. We remember to be thankful. Although our current residence is limiting, and we’re ready to move forward, we are still a part of life. Life is not out there, somewhere, someday, instead…it is today. With all the bad and good and waiting, it still counts as life.

If I have to take a moment to remember this, to think about it, and to let the gratitude sink in, then I’m sure I’m not the only one.

We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, addictions and cheaters, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

And this is why we believe that we are already part of the resurrection life. In life we feel pain, we share heartbreak, we hope in unseen circumstances, we fall and get up again, we sorrow, we rejoice, we try. WE do this together. We include one another in these adventures -which at times seem to lead nowhere- and we pray. We include God.

When saints pray for a common hope, I believe it’s like going to a concert with a beloved band on stage. It feels like everyone is singing along, the crowd is pressing forward, strangers become friends, there is strength in numbers. There’s also that one weird person who has to yell something like “marry me” or “I love you” to one of the band members…but that’s easily ignore or laughed away.
In a concert like this, people are sweaty, smelly, sometimes pushy, close and pressing closer. Some yell the whole song, some sing, yet we all seem to lose our voice by the end of the night. And we love it! It’s like a sign of hardwork well accomplished. Not only did the band get on stage and perform, but we were all a part of the concert tonight…and it was beautiful.

If you’ve never been to a concert like that, you’re missing out. If you’ve never lived a faith like that, then you’re missing it…missing everything.

One or two of these friends (from the previously stated stories), said to us something along the lines of, “I don’t deserve friends like you” to which my husband perfectly replied, “Everyone deserves friends like us.”

We’re not superheroes. But in real life, we are friends to real people. We love our friends. We are proud of our friends.Our prayers for them pour out more regularly than prayers for ourselves. We are thankful for those who have allowed us to journey with them. We know these aren’t just bad times, but these are times where God is working.  We press on, carrying the burdens of our friends. Hoping. Rising…one more time. We will try. Together we will walk through today.

If this isn’t what faith is suppose to look like, then God help us. It’s the best we’ve got thus far.

So… Love is Dangerous?

I made the mistake of flipping through some comments on social media other day, about things that related to the Paris attacks. …Generally related.  I didn’t find much about the people who are recovering, and what’s being done to help them. I didn’t find stories about the hundreds of funerals there will unexpectedly be now. I didn’t find any news about what Americain band was playing during the time of the shooting in the theater. Instead I found hate. Sadly it was readily available and flippantly posted.

Facebook, in its usual style, made a way for people to change their profile pictures to be overlaid with the French national flag. Many people have respond and chosen to do this. Even they posted venom. Not specially towards France, but towards reguees who are fleeing these same deadly attacks in their home countries, because they might be the terrorist themselves. They might be spies. They might be dangerous.

They might. What of it?

Does anybody remember or know what it’s like falling love? It’s risky.  There’s a chance the other person won’t like you. There’s a chance the other person is really a jerk. There’s a chance you two aren’t actual compatible. It’s a chance that one takes, when you choose to further love, friendship, or honesty. It’s risky. It could even turn out badly. Do you remember? Has anyone warned you? Because it’s true.

There’s an old saying “you take the bad with the good” and when you attempt to care about others, it’s just a risk one takes.

Love doesn’t cure everything. But Love makes an attempt to bring forth the cure. Thats what changes the world. Love isn’t ignorant, but it is courageous. Some people hate courageousness, because it’s scary, because it’s change, because it’s beyond what they’ve limited themselves into. I know… I’ve seen it.

We aren’t those people.

In the 1830s America made a permit blemish on her history that can’t ever be undone, and ordered what is now known as the Trail of Tears. The government believed it would safest for the Indians to move onto their own prearranged lands or “camps” further away from the “civilized” areas of this growing country. In the 1940s America again grouped a race of people into questionable treatment in confide areas of “government camps” “for their own safety”.  In the 1940s the Nazis also grouped the Jews into ghettos and “camps” “for their own safety”.

In the late 1930s there’s an infamous story about a large ship filled with German Jews who were promised passage to one of the islands in Caribbean. Before the ship arrive the country changed its mind, and refused to give refuge to these desperate passengers. According to that story, that ship sailed all the way up the coast from Miami, FL to NYC no one granted them passage nor would they let one passages step off that ship.

Fear ruled. If they’d come from that country how bad could be for them to return to it? According to the story, it’s believed that none of the Jews on that ship survived the Nazis occupation.  We had a chance to save a boat full of people, if not a few dozen. As a country we refused them all. That’s the worst part. No one was saved and we let it happen. It’s now part of past we can’t change, but instead we must consider.

I get it, people are scared. I see Muslims have the bad rep in the world today. Okay….. But what’s about the Christian Syrians and refugees? Do you know that they also may be seeking freedom?  What about those who hope in a different and better life for their kids?

Do we remember that behind this mass we see as “refugees” and immigrants, that there are actual people there? There are Christian brethren, there are seekers, there are hurt wounded, scared, hopeful, praying people there.

At this point the question doesn’t seem to be what do we think about taking refugees in, but do we believe in people anymore?
Do we believe that Love has the power to change things? Do we believe that our lives effect others lives? Or are we comfortable cloistered away from danger, away from others that it’s not our problem, because it doesn’t effect our lives?

It effects me.

Do you see people when you see the pictures of the refugees and immigrants? Can you see any people? Find one. Find a face. Find a family. Think about them. Love them. Pray for them. Hope for them. Consider them.

Love is dangerous. It’s risky, it’s scary, it’s unpredictable.  And in light of all that, it’s still worth it.

Find one. Love one.
Because that’s how you change the world.

Today, fear is not my author. I hope we all remember that we have a choose. We have a voice. and we are but one. One makes a difference.