We’re Not Past the God of the Bible

My man & I believe our lives are often a parable. There’s a saying we’ve heard many times: “the man is the message”. It strikes us being completely true. The bare naked truth. We can’t explain many things in our lives. Some of which we endure, some of which break upon us, some of which we seems to be an evident display before the people around us. God speaking in subtle ways. But why?

“To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables; so that they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand; lest they should turn again and be forgiven.”
 Mark 4:11-12

We’re not past the God of the Bible. We haven’t outlived the God who speaks, moves, and acts boldly. Jesus didn’t come to appease a wrathful God. Jesus came to represent a loving God, but a Love which we’re not familiar with. An enduring love.

But I’m not sure how much modern Christianity teaches us to pay attention to God (and God’s heart) except in our time of need. It’s like God is a given. There’s no need to stir ourselves to deeply consider God’s heart. Or so it seems that this is the message which we are given.

Yet God longs to be acknowledged. That is a constant theme throughout the Bible. When we forget to acknowledge God we don’t even acknowledge one another, at least not as that which God has created us to be. Instead we use a doctrinal filter to look at one another and decide if any given person is correct or correct enough (ect). All too quickly we don’t even see another person. We see a problem, a solution, a teacher, a heretic, but we neither see nor hear God’s heart about the person in front of us. A problem which started when we stared using God as pintrest board.

I know people often don’t see us or believe us to be much of anything. Yet I believe that God causes for us to live as parable to many.  A different parable to many different people, but I think God is speaking.
I suppose we so often missing seeing God because we often believe that we are God’s representatives and we don’t look for God among “the least of these my brethren” (Matthew 25:31-46). We believe we are bringing Jesus. Sometimes we do, but not quite the way which mission trips would have us to believe.

For I think that God has displayed us, the apostles, last, as men condemned to death; for we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonored!  To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless.  And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure;  being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now.
 I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you.

 – 1 Corinthians 4:9-14

Sometimes we are a parable.
He who has ears let him hear.

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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.

What Does Relating Have to Do with Relationships?

I listened to an interesting video of an orthodox Jewish woman talking about the concept of “Judaism is not a Religion, It’s a Relationship”. What a familiar phrase. Yet there’s good evidence in the roots of Judaism for such a concept. I watched to see what she’d say.  Not much, I’m afraid.

We don’t understand relationship. We don’t practice relating. We are a must-do-these, must-be-this, must-be-seen-as such&such. We don’t know about relating, and therefore our best concepts of relationship suffer.

We bend our language to make things fit. We don’t consider what is being said and what needs to be said. Sometime we only know that something should look like this, it should cover that, it should fit across here… but don’t consider the limits of a word or the benefits of that limit.

In the previously mentioned video I heard the woman give different examples of relationship and how we can compare our interacting with God to something similar. The problem came in when some examples were of a relationship, yes, but a tip-toe relationship.

Appeasing isn’t relating.
It maybe done in love, but it still isn’t relating. It isn’t dealing with root issues. It isn’t connecting to how someone other than ourselves might feel and why. If we take enough time to fix the problem, but not enough to consider why the problem arose in the first place, we are just managing one another. It’s not relating.

My husband maybe one unlucky man. He married a woman who wasn’t planning on marrying. He married a woman who straight-face told him she not a believer in “woman submit!” theology.  When he married me, his life began to change, and he didn’t know what he was in for.
Everyday I work with my man on life. Sometimes I feel sorry for him. Many christians marry and their wives are these humble-meek creatures the live to serve and honor their man. I teach him. I don’t mean to do it. It’s not my intention, but yet it’s my goal that he realize who God has created him to be.

He came from a reasonable family, but not one that was going help him become into greatness. In fact they expected him to fail because a few doctors and teachers had critical words to say,  and for some reason I cannot conceive his parents believed those “professionals”.  Yet I meet him as a young man, and something in my spirit recognized his spirit, and fate was sealed.

I think probably everyday in our marriage I ask my man questions. Simple questions, hard questions, rhetorical questions, long-term-thought questions, intraspective questions. I cause for him to work, to search, to rise up. …and he has.
I think a reason that I do this, isn’t because I don’t already love who he, but because I don’t think he has seen who he really is.

We all believe lies about ourselves at different points in our life.
Sometimes we allow those lies to define us. Sometimes we get tired of fighting them when they’re repeated over & over again. Sometimes it’s all we’ve known and we are not aware that they are lies.  And yet, they form us into something we are not. They keep us from being who are meant to be. The stifle beauty that means to gently unfold. Yet we don’t always see them within ourselves. Sometimes it takes someone else who can relate and therein reveal a problem that hasn’t yet been dealt with or considered.

I propose that sometimes, as loved ones, we perpetuate the lies that one we love wears. We mean to treat them with honor and therefore we allow them to continue to cover their shame or hurt (ect.).  But a wound that is covered can still get an infection. It must be treated underneath a clean cloth. …But in relationships… that a hard place to be. It’s a fragile company to keep. It’s deep.

Sometimes it’s easier to allow it to be “their problem” and let them deal with it in their own way. Sometimes others’ wounds remind us of our own, and we too would like to keep that hidden.  But that’s not relating, it’s just managing.

I might also point out, that to dig up wounds for the sake of “healing” them and being a hero or rescuer, can be manipulation or using one another, and that’s not healthy either. There’s no healthy substitute for relating.

It takes learning what it’s like to be in our own skin, or to feel our own bones before we can actual relate to another. And yet…we have this thing called “relationships” were sometimes we just get lost and hide in one another. We don’t always consider what’s it like to be who I am, and what does that have to do with being connected to this person here, who I am in a relationship with. Instead we’re hiding in feelings, schedules, raising a family, making then spending money, plans for the future …and we take very, very little time to consider our soul or the one whom we love, their soul. We just keep passing the days, and we do fine.

I don’t want fine. I don’t want a good life. I don’t want average. …and I don’t want that for my man.  He’s more than that, I know. I’m not sure he knows. Despite my struggles of worth & importance, my spirit knows that my life was made for adventures. I know I could be something that helps others cue into their importance, and I know that it could be world changing. But I have to be able to touch something that’s alive. I have to have life within myself that I believe is unique and intentional for my surroundings.

For me I have to believe in God who believes in me. A God who created be to be some specific in this time and in this generation. For me this is my bases for being able to relate to other people despite any internal struggles, or even because I have those specific internal struggles.  I know I’m not the only one who struggles, and reality has allowed me to connect to something gives me strength to bear the load and shuck the shame.

Relationships were meant to have more relating in them, than what we give credit to them in our modern society. To be able to relate is world changing, life-touching, and life giving. Consider… what does relating have to do with (my) relationships?

A Spirit Crying Out

I have this sense, that what we see around us isn’t the world going crazy, in so much as it’s every person with a spirit crying out for a very similar thing. A Messiah.

It’s clear enough to see that most people perceive something wrong with the world or culture that we live in. Many people believe that by the hand of force they can make a difference. Others believe with the correct ruler or god or president, that this world will become more of what they imagine Utopia would be like. Some still believe if we follow the correct system, that will eventually work everything out in the end.

Whether we imagine we’re seeking justice, love, equality, truth, authentic, holistic, prosperity, or perfect …we’re looking for a way to make that happen. Usually with a leader of some sort to get us there. Someone who can see the problems and have a quick decisive way to bring order. Maybe even something that lifts up our own values.

The simplicity of this, doesn’t really sound like a world gone crazy to me. As matter of fact, the Bible might even explain this as birth pangs. A longing for something new to be birth, and to bring things into correction or fullness or redemption.

We call it “the restoration of all things”.
I see it everywhere.
Black Lives Matter, anti-Trump, pro-Trump, Isis, Jihadist, ect.

I find it really isn’t so different than these that took place while Jesus was on the Earth. Different names, yes. Different faces, I suppose. But the pushing, the waiting, the anxiousness and urgency -very much the same.

Sometimes (maybe often) we feel like God doesn’t work fast enough. Maybe that God doesn’t understand what it’ll like to have this trapped feeling of want something greater but not being able to affect change. Maybe God doesn’t understand time and history, because maybe he gets to live outside of time. Maybe God doesn’t care as much as we’d previously assumed, because nothing is worse than feeling stuck and watching glory & hope fade all around you.

Then again…

Maybe God does understand this. Maybe the only reason we even feel this way is because God felt it first. Maybe the push and the urgency within us isn’t just about a sinking ship, but it’s our spirits feeling a deep wind of change. A kingdom that has come and is coming into fullness. A world that’s beyond even the concept of Utopia or “heaven” and is more real the the turmoil we wake up and face everyday.

Maybe our spirits are intuiting birth, newness, life, …and yet it feels like its just beyond us. But how could it be beyond us, if our spirits already feel it? Already thirst for it? And already pushing to come forth into this life?

I get this sense of we are creating our own hell, because we don’t understand how to make heaven. We are actively involved the destruction of something beautiful, because we want it to unfold in our timing. Our curiosity needs fed, and it won’t wait in line. If there’s something great to be found from the hand of God, let us have it now! …Or so we often feel this way. Many people feel similar. Many are willing to takeover and show God how it’s done.

But Jesus faced the same thing in his day. This isn’t new.

The words he spoke aren’t irrelevant or old or un-relatable. They may even be the sharpest light into our own times.

The more the media kindles the fire and promotes fear, the more absurd things become. The more extreme “good people” start to think. The more we create our own hell within the distractions that pull us way from what are spirits are saying. “This isn’t truth. This isn’t right. There has to be something better.” And that would be the most correct thing that could be said.

There something better. There is a culture that brings us into fullness. There is a Promised One who brings justice, who rewards the hard-worker, who empowers the forgotten & oppressed people, who sets the world in way that allows fullness, purpose, order, fulfillment can easily flow.

There is that Promised One, a Messiah who brings the restoration of all things. One who doesn’t have a particular bent of a particular cause, but has in mind the way to bring all things into the beauty of what they were created to be from the beginning.

We are not too far gone. We not even as far as we imagine. God isn’t unaware or inactive. Instead, I purpose that there is a fighting, a pressure, a contending because there is something new, beautiful, and fulfilling taking place, even at this time. Our spirits feel it. How we respond is up to us. But there’s only one Messiah who can bring us into the restoration of all things. There’s only one “peace on Earth” that is truly peace for all mankind. There’s only one Promised One who truly knows and understands justice. We must be careful, not to pick an idol.

The world, our spirits, and heaven itself awaits those who will hear the call and respond to a gracious, humble Messiah. Not that we may have riches and wealth for ourselves, but that we may be servants who bring the restoration of all things. Who bring children to the maturity of becoming heirs of the Father. Who brings servants up into being wise & faithful stewards. Who can see hurt and know it’s birth pangs of something beautiful coming forth, and who can midwife that birth in its proper time. Therein bringing mother, child, and even the father into joy and fullness.

We are the people of God, through Christ Jesus, and we believe the Holy Spirit testifies to Yeshua HaMashiach bring us into the restoration of all things.
(Yeshua HaMashiach is the Hebrew name of Christ Jesus. The one and the same.)

Incomplete

When my life is over I’m going to leave some things undone. It’s not because of my amazingly over-ambitious and lack-of-totally-follow-through that my personality tends towards. It’s because I’m part of a great legacy that includes that next generation of seekers.

The Saints. The ones spoken of in Hebrew chapter of 11 of the Bible, is one of the most challenging things for me to read, but then to top it off, they add these phrases:

All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, …
Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised,  since God had provided something better so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect.

For a long time it killed me this idea of that they did not receive that which they were promised.  I mean…that just doesn’t sound like how a good God works, right? Isn’t too much of modern Christianity about receiving some benefit or promise of some kind right? Heaven, ruling & reigning with Jesus, health & power, get of hell free card, direct line with God’s answering prayers service, or something…right?
So how would it possible for the great forefather of Faith to not receive and yet we should still believe God that he will give to us what’s promised? How does that even work?

Well, maybe our biggest problem is seeing ourselves so very independently.

There was an old preacher man how use to remind people, “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age” but then he added “But it takes a ‘we’ who wrestle.”

In our faith, we are connected to much more than ourselves. Having faith is more than having something to believe in and then cliches, catch-words, and/or doctrinal stances to back it up. Being a part of a Faith is to live in an ancient city that is eternally young and to find our citizenship to be part of many millions and billions of people who live according to a God-honoring culture. A people who pass on what they’ve had, so that those who come next will do better, be stronger, receive the lessons and build on them, and at the same time continue with the original plan.

Being a part of Faith is like living in a coral reef. the complexity and beauty comes from the compiling of lives into one place, one time, one great benefit… a healthy ecosystem.

Our own personal imperfection or lack, only goes to give others a chance to hook-in and connect, like a puzzle piece, and begin to build in the areas where we can’t reach. And it’s beautiful. We shouldn’t be afraid of a deficiency  we have as an individual when we are willing to be one part of the whole. But that’s the trick part right? Since we individually have these deficiencies, then we are shy or embarrassed to connect with what might seem to us more perfect specimens. Or maybe we’re reserved about connecting with those who expose a particular flaw or weakness.

Or maybe we’ve had the crazy idea put into our head of how we (individually) are to become perfect, and therein did not see it as a “we” being the same “we” who wrestle. We don’t tend to see our faith as continuum of a Faith that has been going on and coming into the crux for some time now. Instead we find ourselves to be a modern rendition of something that once was, but has long since been made into moral stories.

We do not understand the value of what we’ve inherited.

But it’s not too late for us, by any means. We can begin to learn -even now- of what great treasures we have come into when we find our imperfect selves connecting to one another and to these old stories with new life still flowing out of them.

Moreover, we don’t have to worry about being a thousand percent correct in all thing just so that we can participate without injuring the beautiful name and legacy. We need to understand how our worth comes from connectivity. This something worth exploring. It’s worth learning together.

Beauty: Misunderstood

Sometimes it’s nice to be comfortably in the age of adults. Sometimes it’s enough to forget some teenage year struggles and social awkwardness. I think as much as I might have struggled at that time, I also had fun with it. I found reasonable ways to push the perimeters and made my life a questioning statement about the “set rules” of life. …of the good life of good Christian living.

One of my strange joys of my teenage years was to hunt through thrift stores to find odd & old patterns on shirts and dresses that seemingly no one else would want and attempt to wear them. Sorry I didn’t take the time to find these old pictures for today, but I can say that there was plenty of things which my mom said looked like the 1960s that were my favorite.

Confession: At that time this had less to do with my actual love of the retro style and more to do with buffeting the system, even though it was a very tiny protest at that.

Now I’ll also say that the retro style is an acquired taste that really grows on you (in my opinion), and I don’t doubt that I generally love it more today than I did back then. Although I am particular about which retro-styles I like. However, I bring it up not to discuss styles, but actually to talk a little about beauty.

In my teenage years, I had read the saying “Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder” and another one that says, “Beauty is more than skin deep”   and it’s these kinds of things make me wonder what could be done to test and/or prove this.

For most of my young life I was told that I was pretty or cute or beautiful as a baby and toddler, and I enjoyed the pure attention and admiration. But I remember I wasn’t more than 3rd or 4th grade before these kinds of saying become tainted. Suddenly it wasn’t just a compliment on its own, but now it was a sort of testing of waters. Now when it was said it had something to do with “boyfriends” or “fighting off the boys” or if it was a boy of similar age it was expected that I might compliment him back. But What for?  I didn’t understand this change. Neither did I enjoy this change, because it seemed to make “beauty” ugly and cheap. Now I had to be guarded against even compliments, which were once good things.

What kind of beauty is it that allows one person to look at another person as a object to use for their own gratification? How is that even considered connected to beauty at all? My conclusion was this had nothing to do with me or my beauty, but the distorted vices of the hearts of those who would pay such nullifying compliments. But yet the guardedness and insecurity of such changes would stick with me a long time into my future.

So low and behold, as my teenage years rolled around, I was ready to put to the test these ideas of what was beauty, and how far could someone claim something to be beautiful before it was ugly or undesirable …or just too strange. And thus began my adventures in my own clothing styles.
Imagine a reasonably smart, good humored, young girl wearing multi-colored paisley shirts, embroidered jeans, modesty-conscious, crazy fun hair styles, and not too particularly concerned with any one’s great opinion or stares.  …then we’re getting closer to what I might have been during that time.

Yet not matter how ugly my shirt or crazy retro my dresses or odd my hair might be, I still had compliments …less, yes, but still compliments. I did notice people were general less bold now. Something about my new fashion sense made people a little more aloof, which I was totally ok with, and those who did still mention it just labeled it as my particular style or me being me. But in the end, it’s just clothes and external expressions. How many people noticed my heart? Or my struggles? Or my joy? Or how many noticed when I was usually quiet? Probably less than a few.

That thing which we call beauty, isn’t usually about beauty at all. External changes in clothes, hair, makeup, accessories, or lack there of  in any of these, isn’t really the display of more or less beauty. Maybe it cries out for more or less attention or expression of some happening internally, but not so much beauty.

Most of the time during my teenage years, I wouldn’t actually have thought myself beautiful. People say there’s a lot of conflicting messages in the media and in children’s toys & dolls and role models, but I’m not sure those are things to blame. Some where, at very young age, we have the wrong idea of what beauty is and where we see it. I’d heard beauty is more than skin deep and that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, but what was the likelihood of discovering such truths in our modern day life?

I think at some point I must have discovered something about beauty which wasn’t so much told to me or explained out loud. At some point I realized what we look like doesn’t have a lot to do with beauty. What we look like has a lot to do with self-image. Beauty, however, is seen when we notice the details of someone’s character or heart or beliefs, or in showing respect to other living beings. Sometimes beauty is discovered when we take on the ugly and learn what it is to be little more lowly but still have joy and pride in life.

I remember looking at a picture of my mom, who rarely truly considers herself beauty, and in this one photo I was looking at she had wrinkles and her glasses weren’t not exactly straight and she had a meek smile. As I consider the photo, I remember thinking how beautiful she was. I thought about how she might look at the imperfections in the photo and not think too much of it, but I remember also being captured with how beautiful she really, really did look. Wrinkles are bound to come. Glasses sometimes don’t sit straight. Smiles sometimes get captured in that halfway position when a photo is taken. …but so what? Certainly such tiny things don’t define beauty.
What my mom may not notice is that she has a perfect diamond shape face that allows her to look great in almost any type of glasses, beautiful innocent brown eyes, thick full rich hair, and Love in heart that is always conveyed no matter what kind of smile. She’s beautiful.

It took me a while to understand beauty for myself, and it’s taken me a little bit beyond that to understand that many people don’t even consider what words actually mean. Often we have our associations with this word or that word, and that’s it. There’s no more defining or consideration or thought. …and that’s a shame.  There’s many consideration-worthy things in this life. There’s many joys to be found, and lessons to be learned. There’s healing to be obtained.
And for me, I know I am here today, so I might as well do something with myself, besides just nodding my head at others opinions. I have some time and I’m still breathing, so maybe I could try something more adventurous. Maybe a long the way I’ll discover things that well help this world make a little more sense to me …or even help someone else.

Today beauty. Tomorrow…?