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.

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Women Facing Stones

There he saw a well in the open country, with three flocks of sheep lying near it because the flocks were watered from that well. The stone over the mouth of the well was large. When all the flocks were gathered there, the shepherds would roll the stone away from the well’s mouth and water the sheep. Then they would return the stone to its place over the mouth of the well.
“Why don’t you water the flocks so they can get back to grazing?” Jacob asked. “They’ll be hungry if you stop so early in the day!”
“We don’t roll away the stone and begin the watering until all the flocks and shepherds are here,” they replied.
As this conversation was going on, Rachel arrived with her father’s sheep, for she was a shepherdess. And it came to pass, when Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother’s brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother’s brother, that Jacob went near and rolled the stone from the well’s mouth, and watered the flock of Laban his mother’s brother.
When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back.
 
Gen 29:2-3; Gen 29:7-10; Mark 16:1-4
Three flocks, three women. One well in the open county, one tomb in a lonely place. A large stone.  “Who will roll the stone away?”
How can we go on with our lives if the large stone remains as a cover for that which we seek to get to? Whom will we have to wait for? How long will we have to wait?
Yet there is one who has the promise to bless all nations within his body, who is able to roll the stone away. Who will not wait for the “correct” setting or correct time. Now is the time for the one who carries the promise of the Messiah within himself.
My husband and I have been going through studies, material, scriptures, and thoughts all searching through this idea of women in ministry. God vs women. The curse, the restoration of all things, the Messiah and Eve (and Adam). Who wins?
As people who are interested in this debate, we are those who are coming forth in the open country side. We ask ourselves, what will it take to find our identity in an eternal God who is not gender bias?  The scriptures themselves have been taken by bad shepherds who merchandise in the souls & flesh of men, and they have laid a large & heavy stone over top. Sealing us outside the source of what we so desperately seek to come unto.
Our journey has been hard.
Yet, we’ve been surprised by the picture set before us, as we come closer and closer. Something very strange. Something very different than we expected.
It’s not there.
The very large stone, that had always kept us waiting in line, and had made us waste precious hours of the day. It gone. It’s been removed. Now there’s a new man standing, waiting. Familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. Loving and broken hearted. Excited, relieved, tired and renewed. Who is it that stands before us?
 “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?”  And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it.  And I began to weep bitterly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it.  Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”
Rev 5:2-5
For better or worse, the Lord opens to us that which no one else can open. Our delight is that this opening, revealing gives us a sending. The times ahead maybe perilous, but the compare to the glory that is about to be revealed, it’s a small thing to endure.
There is something beyond us. Bigger than us. Yet we all get stuck on small biers. Thistle and thorns have kept us from coming sooner. Bad fruit that we were given to eat. It didn’t seem right at the time, and it surely wasn’t. It didn’t take us where it promised; it didn’t lead us to where we wanted to go. But there is the promise of redemption still.
In our journey to seek God’s face, to see how God feels about women, and what the whole of the Bible says, we have found ourselves aligned with stories of those who have fallen. Fallen for sin, or fallen for Love. Every turn has redemption in it.
We find it impossible to read all the way to the New Testament and find grudge-holding to be God’s ideal. Neither does the blame-game seem relevant anymore.  Instead,  when to comes to the issues of women, we have found God there in every turn, with love in his eyes. Heartbreak and love. Love always wins with God. God’s love swallows the heart break that was once there, until there is only love. It’s like Jesus…
It’s like Jesus and the women who was “caught in the act of adultery”. The whole issue seems to be summed up here:
“Where are your accusers? Are there any left?”
“No.”
“Then neither do I accuse you.”
Throughout the Bible there is reconciliation and redemption. Eve, Adam, and God. Paul, Junis, scriptures. Mary, Joseph, and Jesus.
There are no long held grudge match against women in scriptures. So where are those modern scholar’s who are without sin? Will they continue to hold their stones and point at women’s “short comings” while denying their own ancient faults? It’s impossible to be justified before Christ while holding onto that stone, holding onto that power, and holding onto the blood thirst.
As it turns out, even if no one else will place aside the stone (whether large or small) God has already set a redeemer to his Beloved, and the daughters of God no longer wait on anyone else.
The well is open, the tomb is empty, redemption has begun. It is up to each of us now, to decide whether we’ll drop or stones as well, or wether we harbor contempt for a woman who was set up and deceived. And where is that man who fell into sin with her? Has he alone been redeemed, forgiven, set free?
We must reconsider that facts, from God’s point of view. Least we let the letter of the law ensue within us blood thirst for one of God’s precious ones. Careful now…

Loving the Unlovely: Christian Conflicts With Israel

There ought to be things that still break our hearts. IF we consider ourselves to be in some relationship or acquaintanceship with God, then there definitely out to be things that still break our hearts in very tender ways.

I struggle to find the words of what I saw.

There are a people within Christianity who claim to love the Jews people, but they believe that something just like the last Holocaust is possible or even likely to happen again. These said people wish to do their part to protect God’s Chosen People. They believe a redeemed Israel will come out of the calamity, albeit a drastically reduced number.
Some times these people speak so factually it scares me to here their casualness.

But it got worse. …

I once heard a vehement Jew…maybe rabbi, I don’t remember right now…say something along the lines of, “Christians just want to use Jews to bring back their Christ! They don’t care about us!“. As if one religious culture could use or manipulate or sacrifice another. I hate how right he may have been. I could only imagine what he’s seen and heard. I know what I’ve seen and heard makes me sick to think about it, even as I search for the words.

These select group of Christians (fore mentioned) had a portion of them give a message/sermon which I heard about after the fact, although I was at the same camp…I skipped this particular “teacher”.  He spoke from Ezekiel 39:9-16, and he spoke words of mockery.

One of the other seminar attendee’s gladly recount the summary for me. The theory went something like this: after the Jews survive (barely) another world war, then they’ll see Christ and be humbled, then they’ll have to be on cleanup duty for seven months from all the Armageddon that just occurred, and they’ll become even more humbled. Then after that, maybe they’ll be truly reconciled with God.
My heart broke.

These are the Christians who claim to love Israel and love the Jew? What love is this, that delights in their being kept out of their own Holy City and having to do humiliating unclean work of peasants? While what..? The “Christians” get to hang out with the Messiah, partying because they’re so much more fit to be in the Holy City?
No. I do not hear the heart of God in this. No. I will not be with that crowd.

If that was the only way such scriptures could be read, then let me just say, I would set aside “party time” or “ruling and reigning with Christ” and I would go help the Jews with the disgusting, unclean work of picking up corpses and bones left rotting months after the most horrific battle of history.

These things should not be taken so light-heartedly.
Did this teacher even stop for two minutes to consider God’s heart on these things? Or how Christ works over and over again? How is that Christians can take verses like, “But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ” or “And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses“, but they are only for Christians?
How is it that there is still this idea that one must clean themselves up before God will accept them? How does one clean themselves up with God’s help?

In case you should become curious what is in Ezekiel 39:9-16 and what does it say… may I just offer another point of view? It’s not about Israel going through more disgrace and humbling. By this point in the eschatological story (end of times story), the remaining People of God have already beheld and meet their God in fullness. They are already a priestly people. Now God has put a new love in their hearts where they can’t stand the idea that something -even something defiling- would stand in the way of anyone coming up the Mount of God and meeting with the true God. Therefore, they’re so fervent, that they willing go out, work as hard as they can, for as long as they can, and they will clear the Traveler’s Valley, so anyone…absolutely anyone can come and meet with God.
They are not doing this to earn merit, but out of Love…the Love of God, which we only gain when we experience a personal encounter with God.

I don’t understand the words “I love you” or “love” itself when people hook with circumstantial requirements. Although maybe we all do. Maybe we’re a people who forgotten how to love other just because …just because there is some unmistakable beauty in the depths of another person’s soul, which our soul notices even before we see it or understand it ourselves.
Even if we fail at this… can we just, please, not put God’s name on it?

Can we just have enough respect for a being that would qualify as God to not try to make him into a tyrant or monster at every other turn? Can we just admit we want points for our deeds? Can we just stop putting other people down even though we find disappointment all around us? Can we have a little respect? Can we hope in beauty? Can we stop being mean to those who brought us here?

If we’re going to were the title Christian, could we just believe in the way Christ Jesus lived, and they things he taught? Could we just look at the scriptures without trying to find our own treasures, and just search for God’s heart instead?

Could we stop saying “I love you” just to make it easier to use people? Please… Please stop feeding your hate.

Can we wash one another’s feet just because Jesus called us to servanthood? Can we just act like the thing by which we identify ourselves as?

Something changes when you know God’s heart beyond the best doctrinal choices. When God doesn’t fit into our given options, we have a chance at expanding our world, our minds, and our hearts.

When Jesus had his infamous “angry moment” in the Temple, flipping tables and driving out the money changers… you need to understand the unspoken things that happened there. The context, if you will.  In those days, people sold potential sacrifices just outside the inner temple area, in an area known as the court of Gentiles. It was all the closer Gentiles were allowed to get towards the Holy God of Israel. Whether out of spite, commerce greed, or necessity of the day this area (the court of the Gentiles) had become so packed that barely anyone could walk around in it -because of the buying, selling, and trading taking place- let alone have a quiet moment to worship a still distant God.
So Jesus comes in see all this taking place and quotes the scripture, “My house will be called a house of prayer” …and the rest of the sentence is “for all nations”.

Hebraically, this is how you quote scriptures, in part. Because ever elementary age child learned the scriptures by heart. …or nearly. It’s iron sharping iron to quote part and have those around you quote the rest to you and still understand the greater picture of what’s being said. Kind of like we do with movie quotes nowadays.

So in this famous “angry moment” of Jesus at the Temple, we see God’s heart is broken in that Israel (and their religious system) isn’t taking seriously being the People of God and priestly to all nations. So I can only imagine if there comes a time when the Messiah shows up, and restores the fullness of all things, then these people too will see the truth about even this detail in the covenant.

When God shows up everything changes.

It would be absolutely impractical to have a half love for the Jew now, merely waiting for Jesus to come and rub their faces in it, and to think that will be enough to be a catalyst for their “full salvation”. It’s absurd!
If we want to make a difference in the darkest times, we must know God’s heart. We must know God’s heart beyond doctrinal correctness. We must not despise one we call our brother. We must see the beauty of what God is doing beyond our own selves and our reward.

Love is nothing if it is not lavish and strong to those who are weak and far off. And if our love is nothing, than so are we.

Death & Life: the Holy Week dance

Right now we’re in time that traditionally is called Holy Week by Christians, and this is usually more observed by the more liturgical & ritual related churches. It’s always a good idea to consider traditions whether we observe them or not. While this should be one of the best times for Christianity to enjoy it’s moment in the spotlight, I often find that Holy Week (for me) results in a palmface. …you know, smacking your on head because of the irony, or hiding your face behind your hands.

It goes like this: traditionally Palm Sunday is they day Christian remember Jesus entering Jerusalem for the last time, and it was a big deal at that time. A lot of people who had been listening to Jesus during his life time and considering his teaching put on a big welcome ceremony type of thing. Palm Sunday gets its name because it’s remember that many people waved palm branches to welcome Jesus’ coming into Jerusalem at that time. Palm branches because they were readily available and it was kind of like the “Don’t Tread On Me” flag is nowadays. So it was a big time of rejoicing, and that also how Christians remember it nowadays.

Next is Maundy Thursday (I assume this a Latin name, I’m not sure where it comes from) is the day where Jesus would have observed the Seder with his talmidim, also known as the Last Supper with the 12 disciples.

Next is Good Friday, which I was told that it was “good” for us, because this is the day Christian remember as the day Jesus died his terrible death on the cross to make salvation available for all of mankind. A time to consider the realness of sorrow, and not just hide our emotions and “be brave”. Often this is the perfect day for weeping just because we don’t always mourn when we should, but our spirits need to be free enough to feel hurt before we can heal.
I’m not sure if Saturday has an official name, but it’s often considered “Silent Saturday”. We consider the times God seems to be silent in our lives, or in others lives, as we struggle to understand things we don’t see.

Last but far from least is Easter Sunday. This is the big celebration of beautiful surprises that God doesn’t always work in the same ways we do, or how we expect, but God does things we hadn’t previously understood. God makes things beautiful again and brings life where hopelessness was. This is the celebration day for Christians.
Is or should be anyhow.

So in short I love the ideas behind Holy Week and the thought, consideration, and emotion that’s behind it. Yet the reality isn’t the same. Sometimes I think church buildings and church systems almost seem bored of Holy Week. They certainly seem confused about it.

All my life I have heard Evangelicals talking about, “Jesus died on the cross for your sins”, so might think that when Good Friday comes the Christians are all about it, right? That’d be the logically conclusion that Good Friday is the biggest moment for the Christians, right? Remember Jesus being tortured and then dying on a cross on Good Friday. …But do you know what I find?
On Good Friday, when we’re suppose to considering the depths of pain and the reality of loss & heartbreak, and the cost & destruction of sin in this world …and What do the Christians talk about on that day? About how on Easter Sunday Jesus will be alive! Jesus will rise from the dead! How there is hope! …on Good Friday.

Then Easter Sunday roles around, and do you know what they’ll preach for 25 of their 30 minutes? Jesus died on the cross for our sins!

But Easter Sunday is suppose to be about Jesus is alive and arose from the grave. It’s about how we’ve not only been cleared from our sins (on Good Friday), but now we don’t have to be afraid of death, and how God wants to not only be free from sin but to start to live in a way that brings life now and prepares us for more & more life in heaven. We’re no longer prisoners to death, destruction is no longer our native culture, desolation is no longer our native language, but because Jesus arose from the grave we also are meant to arise out of our destructive habits.

I hear a lot of a lot of Christians using a language of death: suffering, self-wreckage, belittling, pseudo-persecution. I whole-heartedly cannot agree with this tendency. Generally I understand where it comes from and the idea behind it, but yet I can’t seem to emend the reasoning of Christians who dwell in death language, verse a God who brings life. Above all, why at Easter should the language of death & dying reign supreme?

Why do Christians talk so big about the events of Good Friday, but when Good Friday comes they can’t bear the weight & fullness of it, so they remind everyone else the Easter is coming! But when Easter comes, they’re back to talking about the events of Good Friday?

I call their bluff.

I say this stems from consumerism. I say it’s not so much that we’re interested in the fullness of Jesus being a worthy self-sacrificial lamb who fulfilled all the Levitical offerings through his torture and death, and it’s not that we’re willing to identify ourselves in that pain & sorrow. Instead maybe all talk is simply to see what we get out of it.
Yet I have to ask: What kind of synthetic system teaches people to acknowledge God merely for what they get out of it, but then doesn’t bother to tell the greater story that they’re right smack in the middle of? Who does that? and Why?

We have some beautiful, beautiful traditions in Christianity, but they’ve also been allowed to become tainted over the generations. We need to personally reconsider what these things mean. We need to consider the heart of God, and then make that the one -or the main focus and filters- through which everything else passes. And maybe it makes me sound like a ninny, but I don’t think all this continual death-language is actually glorifying a God who is known as the Living God, who raised Jesus from the dead, who has come to give life and give it more abundantly, and who speaks through his Living Word.

Death, death is for the old things, the things that have pasted away. The old habits try to haunt us, the old advice that use to dictate us who or what we would be, the old belief that this is all we have and who gives a damn. Death to that! But not to us. Not today. We are new creatures in Christ Jesus. We live today. Today is beautiful, because we have life.

But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

-the picture above is an old stump which is growing a new tree out the side of it. New life were there was once certain death. Beautiful.-