Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Key of Knowledge

I was reading in the Word trying to find something specific earlier today (isn't this how God sometimes grabs our attention? well, He does it to me sometimes), when I stumbled on a rather vitriolic passage in Luke where Jesus was lambasting the Pharisees and the 'lawyers' (i.e., the experts in Mosaic law). It was the climax of His diatribe against (or warning to) these people.
"Woe to you lawyers (* = teachers of the law)!  For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you yourselves did not enter, and you hindered those who were entering.”
  - Luke 11:59

Now, I've grown up in the organized church, and spent all of my life in that milieu. That expression, 'the key of knowledge' had always been preached to mean knowledge in the sense of accumulating knowledge about, or studying, or possibly moral wisdom. It's why we went to Sunday school, to learn 'about God.' It's why we were encouraged to memorize scriptures, to increase our knowledge, to know right from wrong and choose the right. It carries with it the feeling of following the rules in order to keep from being punished. 

But that is not what this word is talking about. I went to Strong's Concordance and discovered that this knowledge - the key to which the teachers of the law, the clergy of Jesus' day, had "taken away" - is translated from the Greek word gnosis or 'deeper or more perfect knowledge'... which is derived from another Greek root word  ginosko  ... common language for the ultimate act of intimacy within a marriage. 
Photo "Couple At Sunset"
courtesy of piyaphantawong at
www.freedigitalphotos.net

Oh my. 

That brings a whole new meaning to this passage, doesn't it?  

Jesus was angry and so very saddened by how the religious teachers of His day didn't "get" the intended message of knowing God intimately, and not only did they not "get" it, they made it impossible for people to access that kind of information so that THEY could have any kind of relationship with God. 

Basically their lives sucked, and they wanted everyone else's lives to suck as much as theirs. And because they were in a position of leadership, and people looked to them for guidance, they succeeded in laying so much bondage on people, and making what should have been a free and beautiful relationship into a loveless, lifeless contract marked by a whole laundry list of dos and don'ts, with threats of punishment if they did not toe the line. 

I'm not pointing fingers.  The point here is not who is a Pharisee and who isn't. The point is not whether this or that pastor, this or that denomination is misguided at best.  No ... the point is that God wants to have a gloriously intimate, personal relationship with each of us. Jesus was all about that... because He knew that there was joy in it for us - and for Him. He knew that us living in fear was no way to live at all. He came to bring freedom so that people could actually BE FREE. 

And the key to that freedom is a growing intimacy with God. 

It isn't about whether we eat this or that, or drink this or that, or go here or there, or sing this or that, or say this or that. It is about allowing God into the deepest parts of us, those places nobody else is allowed to (or has a right to) go, letting Him express His delight in us, letting Him "know" us - in the most intimate way. Only in that deep knowledge, that total acceptance of His lavish love, that realization that He is for us and wants to pour out His love into and upon us, is there real peace and purpose and passion and power. That is true living. That is the moment-by-moment adventure.

That knowing (ginosko - or intimate knowing) is what Jesus was referring to when He said that in that 'day' of reckoning He would say (to those calling out "Lord, Lord...."), .... "I never knew you. Depart from Me..." (Mt 7:23)  He meant that two-becoming-one union, the kind that is only possible when we open up the most private parts of our selves to His love. He meant, in essence, "You never let Me intimately know you.

What a sad indictment! How much we have missed!! How small and puny our conception of God has become because we (in our arrogant insistence upon our own unworthiness and fearing His vengeance) dare not entertain the thought of the exceeding greatness of His love and grace! That love is the starting place of the journey; that is the pinnacle.

We are already there, if we but knew (accepted, opened ourselves to) it. He has already made a place for us in His lap - His arms are open wide and that spot, that special spot on His shoulder is aching for us to nestle in there and hear His heart beat for - and with - ours. 

Can we not hear His call? It is sweet, sad, yearning. It echoes in our own hearts and resonates in our own longing for something "more."  Let's press in. 

I dare you. Let's open ourselves to Him. Let's let Him in.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Light and Easy

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” - Mt. 11: 28-30, Message (emphasis mine)

I've been doing a lot of thinking and meditating lately about the kind of Life Jesus intended to give us, a life of freedom, one delivered from the burdens of religious ritual and meaningless mantras, one of passion and purpose and peace. 

He used the picture of the yoke in the above passage (I just used the paraphrase for clarity's sake, and because I love the phrase "the unforced rhythms of grace." What a picture of freedom - but that is another post for another time!)  

The yoke is a time-honored traditional way to harness the strength of two powerful beasts (be they horses or oxen) to accomplish a given task. The yoke is essentially a cross-piece that is laid across the necks of two animals. The farmer would attach the middle of the yoke to a pole through a ring or a rope, and attach the other end of the pole to a plow or some other farming tool. He would either walk behind the plow or put his weight on it to drive it into the ground and make the plow dig deeper into the earth. All the animals had to do was walk together.


Drawing "Farmer And Horses Plowing Field Oval Etching"
courtesy of vectorolie at
www.freedigitalphotos.net
I've seen this happen. When I was growing up, my uncle had two draft horses that he put together in a contraption very much like a yoke ... and he would come and "horse-hoe" our potatoes. This was a necessary task, because it loosened the dirt around the potatoes and allowed them more room to grow, and it also covered the maturing potatoes with more soil so that they didn't get sunburned. In addition, it was a hundred times faster than hoeing the rows by hand.

I used to love to watch the two mares do their work because well, I happen to love horses ... and this was as good an excuse as any to get out of the house and away from the detested task of washing the dishes (that's hilarious to my husband by the way... but I digress.)  It amazed me to see how they seemed to communicate with each other as they went about their work; they knew what had to be done and I could see them looking at one another, happy in each other's company. The work was secondary. They got to spend time together. When one would stumble, the other would slow down and steady the harness until the other one fell back into step with her.

Now, here are a few fun (if random) facts.
  • "Beasts of burden" (and people, by the way) can pull way more than they can carry.
  • Each yoke was adjusted (or even constructed) to fit the specific animals perfectly.
  • The farmer would yoke animals of the same size together because they would pull better if they were on the same level. The burden became awkward and harder to pull if the animals weren't the same size and strength.
  • The animals who worked together would hang out together in the pasture more often.
  • If there was a less experienced animal, the farmer would harness or yoke it together with an older, more experienced one (again, of the same size) so that the younger would learn techniques of pulling and of turning from the older, thus decreasing the workload and getting the job done faster.
Okay, here's the thing. When Jesus talked about being "heavy laden" (as the KJV puts it) He was talking about a totally different contraption - something like a pack that a mule would carry on its back, held on with a girth much like a saddle has. People would load up the pack on the animal's back with burdens that were too heavy for humans to carry ... and sometimes the load became way too much for even the animal to carry. The SAME LOAD if pulled by two animals was NOTHING compared to one trying to carry it in its own strength. Consistently heavy-laden animals didn't last as long as teamed animals who pulled. The knees and backs of heavy-laden animals would give out and they would eventually have to be destroyed. 

The "weary and heavy-laden" that Jesus was talking about, then, were people who were burning out, trying to fulfill all the teensy tiny laws, all the "shoulds" and "oughtas" that were placed on them by the religious leaders. Do this, don't do that, don't touch that, don't eat that - and - oh my goodness don't go there and eat with that person! ... etc. 

Enter the Light and Easy yoke. Jesus came so that all those heavy burdens could be put behind us. He came to walk in fellowship with us and to make Himself just our size. He came to show us how it's done. (How what is done?  really LIVING, of course!) And not only that, He came to do that with us, not to be the one standing on the plow, so to speak, but the one in harness with us. We never have to go it alone; HE is there. 

Right beside us. Just our size. Helping, encouraging, waiting for us to get our footing.

Monday, August 17, 2015

In between

I'm neither here nor there, neither in the groove nor out of it, neither on the road nor aimlessly wandering. 

I am in between. 

It's an empty place - a quiet space - almost a vacuum. Between what I have known and what I will know, I am in that curious state of nothingness that begs for an answer, a voice, an activity, anything to fill that void. 

It is a dangerous place - an eerie space - more silent than a whisper, and just as elusive. It's uncomfortable. I am tempted to go back to what was, what I knew, not because it is a better place, but simply because I know it, and I know what to expect. Yet because I know what to expect, I dread moving backward in that all-too-familiar direction. Too long I have wallowed in its mediocrity and sameness. Yet the future - bright and glittering- is unreachable, shiny, taunting me with its promises of a better life, whatever that means. 

It looks as though I am stuck here - here in the present, here in the in-between. Here the echoes of what was ... are too loud, and the promise of what will be ... is too far off to provide any satisfaction. 

This is the void. This is the awkward silence, the silence of 'becoming'. 

It is empty ... and dangerous ... and absolutely essential. Here I can ask myself the tough questions from which I have been hiding. Who am I? Why am I here? Is this all there is? Is what I have known all that will ever be? Can I not hope for something more? Will I ever stop feeling so lifeless? Where is the joy I was promised? Can I ever learn to listen for - and hear - that still small Voice again? 

Other voices clamour around me to fill that silence with uplifting music, with many words, with groanings and fervent prayer, with busy-work. Yet the only sound my soul makes is that of a small, frightened child - so frightened that she dare not make a sound or she will be discovered. I hear the rapid beating of my own heart, as if I have stepped off a cliff with no assurance that anything will be there to keep me from falling to my death. There are moments of abject terror - of a panic so great that it steals my breath from my lungs.

The questions continue, go deeper, persist in spite of the pleadings of some part of me for them to stop. But they don't. Where did the Light go? Will I ever see it again? Why is it that others seem so satisfied with the status quo ... and I do not? Do I really know what it is that I am looking for? If I don't, then how will I know it when I see it? (Or WILL I see it?) 

This hurts. It's painful. I can't describe it well enough; only those who have been here will understand. I can talk to them, and they can encourage me to persevere, but it seems I can't make anyone else understand. "Why are you so dissatisfied?" I hear them say in my mind. "Why are you putting yourself through this?"

Nobody wants to hear about this place. They want me to be as I was, or they want me to be as I will be. They are just as uncomfortable with this awkward place in my life as I am - perhaps even more so. Everyone wants the finished product, something recognizable, something to point to and either pray for or praise God for. Not this. Not the transition. Not the uncertainty. Not the pain. Oh most definitely not the pain. 

I know that so many will not understand.  This fact tears at the fabric of my being, for I have spent my whole life trying to do whatever I could to make people approve of me, to like me, to hear me, to understand me. Yet I know - I KNOW - that so many people will think that I am sick, or sad, or crazy, or backslidden, or ... or whatever they will think. Yet I am so desperate for answers that I must face the monster of "What will people think?" and put it to death in my life. I must exist in this place of emptiness, of the void, no matter what people think.

This, THIS is in between. This is not comfortable. Yet it's all I know right now. Like the caterpillar in its chrysalis, I am being de-consructed; the person I was is no longer the person I am. I am being changed; into what, I do not know. It is too soon to tell. I am only beginning.

All I know for sure is that it will be different. Just how different, or what form it will take, is completely unknown to me. The only One who knows is the One who compelled me to enter this place, this space where all else fades away ... except change.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Lesson from RMS Titanic

On April 10, 1912, the Royal Mail Steamer (RMS) Titanic set out from Southampton, England on her maiden voyage to New York, with 2227 people on board, mostly wealthy people in first-class cabins and immigrants transported like cargo toward the new world. 

The Titanic was already famous. She was touted as "the unsinkable ship" - the safest ever to be built - and so confident were her designers of that "fact" that there were only 20 lifeboats on board: only enough to carry a scant half (at most) of the passengers on that voyage. The mood was festive. Nothing bad could happen. 

Late on the night of April 14, at 11:40 pm, the ship struck an iceberg, about 400 miles south of Newfoundland. April in Atlantic Canada is far from springtime. 

To one eye-witness, the sound of the ship hitting that iceberg was like fabric ripping. The passengers who were awake felt the ship shudder, and many just lay back down and trusted the "safest ship ever built" to take them to their destination. Some asked members of the crew if there was a problem. They were told that as far as they knew, there was none. 

There was a problem. The problem was that the ship had struck an iceberg, and the pilot of the ship believed the propaganda that the ship was unsinkable, and so delayed his distress call. The passengers - confused and disbelieving - were not warned early enough, and when they were warned, the crew started calmly handing out life-preservers to the passengers.

While most passengers got a life preserver, many more people died than needed to die, because of (1) the arrogance of the designers (2) the implicit trust people had in the media hype [in other words, they believed what they were told], and (3) too few lifeboats and too little instruction on their use (based on reasons one and two). 

Photo "Titanic Ship Sinking At Night" by
Victor Habbick at |
www.freedigitalphotos.net
Again, from eye-witness accounts, the RMS Titanic sank bow-first beneath the waves, looking much like an incredibly slow-motion dive that a duck might make, eventually at a 65-degree angle as the stern slipped beneath the waves. The sinking took two hours and forty minutes. 

Those left on board during that time with no life-boats left to save them, huddled near the stern, still clinging to the vain hope that the great ship would not sink. More and more of them let go, unable to hang onto the railing (or each other) any longer, faced with two realities: the cold numbing air of the North Atlantic and the force of gravity that pulled them sharply downhill. The icy water killed over 1,500 people in mere minutes from their entrance into the water - those who had their life preservers but who were too late to get into the lifeboats. 

Those in the lifeboats could barely believe that the ship was doomed and so they lingered near it until it became obvious that the media hype was wrong; they rowed away clumsily because most of the crew had gone down with the ship and they had no instruction on how to navigate the huge rowboats, each holding about 35 people. 

Over three hours they stayed in the lifeboats in the freezing cold, pressing close together for warmth, calling out the names of their loved ones out over the dark water ... for answers that never came. As twilight turned to dawn, they could see the outline of a ship, a proven ocean liner whose captain had heard the delayed distress call and was waiting to pick up survivors. The Carpathia took aboard 705 survivors that morning. The rest of the Titanic's passengers and crew had died - one thousand, five hundred twenty-two people. (*)  The enormity of that loss was unprecedented: nothing like that had ever happened on such a large scale.

The only ones who survived were the ones who got off the ship and into a safe place, at great personal and emotional cost. 

We are aboard another Titanic - the religious system we call the church (notice I use the small letter c??) - and we are so caught up in the hype of the gates of hell not prevailing against it (in other words, indestructible) that we forget that the real Church isn't about the system or the vehicle (so to speak); the Church is about the people: real people with real lives. Unfortunately, what we settle for is being lulled into a false sense of security by the propaganda and the ritual and the expectation that the deck beneath our feet will hold and stay steady ... we are settling for doing church instead of being the Church. 

What we have called the church (the building, the religious system) is waterlogged and already beginning to tilt, and it has been on its way down for decades. It was never indestructible; it is man-made!! The real Church is created by Jesus - and besides, when Jesus said "the gates of hell would not prevail against it ... He was talking about the Rock upon which He would build the Church - that Rock being the truth that He is the Chosen One, the Son of the living God - the Good News, ... not the vehicle.  

"And we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us." (2 Cor 4:7) WE are the Church. WE carry the Good News, this treasure, the love of God shed abroad in our hearts. We don't need to go to a special place, or say certain words, or do certain things in a specific way or order. The building, the organization, panders to the control freak in us, the need to feel that we are in control of something ... when the truth is that there is nothing that we can do to make God love us more OR less than He always has. 

Photo "Couple Having Breakfast"
courtesy of Ambro at
www.freedigitalphotos.net
If WE are the carriers of the Message, if we are the dwelling-place of the Spirit of God (and by faith in His Word we ARE) then the structure (seen or unseen) is not important and may actually detract from what God is doing. What matters most is our willingness to listen to His leading. 

The safest place for us is not on board a sinking ship. We don't have to "do" church; we never did! We ARE the church - and that truth makes Jesus' words come alive: "Wherever two or three are gathered in My name, there I am in the midst." (Mt 18:20) We don't have to have two hymns, announcements, offering, a sermon and a prayer. We can be who we are, share what God is doing in our lives, and lift one another up without the benefit of clergy, a building, or even singing if that's not where the gathering goes. I've been in such gatherings - in coffee shops, living rooms, restaurants ... they are amazing, energizing, and precious.  The moment we legislate such a living thing with the word "should", it is re-infected with the cancer of man-made position and influence ... and dies a painful death. 

Why would I want to participate in that? 

The way I view "what the Church is" ... has been undergoing a transformation lately. I'd been seeing it as the narrow (so narrow you can see through a keyhole with both eyes), traditional definition for so long ... that the idea of informal, unstructured gatherings any old time with other believers had to be called something else - like visits, or sharing, or whatever else happened. The reason for this was that (obviously) there was no pastor or worship leader, so it couldn't be church, right?  Really though, what I experienced in those impromptu get-togethers in random places ... was the Church. I just didn't recognize it because I was so used to the Sunday-go-to-meeting kind of ritual gathering where it feels 'safe' - (like the Titanic was for those four days...) surrounded by the ornate trappings and beautiful music and such, playing on the emotions and relying on manipulation to get people to respond. (Oh of course you've heard it and seen it happen: "Can't I get an Amen?" or "We'll sing that verse one more time and sing it like you mean it!"  etc., etc.)

I've since realized and been able to recognize the Church at work even when my husband, my daughter I have breakfast on a weekday morning and end up (as we usually do) talking about God. He's part of our lives, our everyday. Such times are when we feel most encouraged, in a safe place with each other in our relationship so that we can be honest about our feelings and help each other to grow in our faith. 

And I find myself less and less willing to board the ocean liner. The luxury accommodations just aren't worth it. 


(*)   -  Information retrieved from http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/titanic.htm 

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Prove it

"I love you."

"Yeah? Prove it." 

This is a conversation that takes place hundreds of thousands of times a day in western society.  We expect that if someone loves us, he or she should do something to prove it, to back up the words. (That's a whole different post.)

We say that a lot to God, too, perhaps without knowing it. The attitude is, "Yeah? so what have You done for me lately?" We get so caught up in our insecurities and in the lies that the enemy whispers into our minds that we assume that God is unaware or unfeeling. Nothing could be further from the truth. At such times, I find that a simple review of the facts can take that cynicism and put it in its place.

Hmm. Let's see. Let's start with the basic facts, shall we? 
  • He delivered us from sin - past, present and future - once for all (all people and all time) when He died for us on the cross. He rescued each of us that day and has been rescuing us every day since, and will continue to rescue us for the rest of our lives. Not because of anything we have done or not done, but because HE WANTS TO.
  • He made it possible for God to show His mercy and grace to us freely, to lavish His love on us just as He lavishes it on Jesus
  • He gave us the gift of His divine presence within us from the moment we believed, onward. Not just upon us (as it was in the days of King David who asked God to not take His Holy Spirit from him) but IN us - permeating us, part of who we are.
  • Because of Him, we can be in an intimate relationship with the Divine, access His power, speak to sickness and pain of every kind and watch it leave. All because of those three hours spent writhing on the cross. 
  • He defeated death. He not only spoke to it and reversed its effects in others, He actually went there Himself and conquered it, exploded it from the inside, making a public spectacle of it, and taking its sting away even for those who must endure it. For those, He waits on the other side with arms wide open, to welcome them. And - omnipresent as He is - He also comforts those of us who mourn the hole left in our lives where the physical presence of our loved one used to be.
  • He prays for us. He believes in us and He encourages us - and sends people who encourage us - to press in and increase our intimacy with Him. 
  • He listens to us. He cares about what burdens our hearts. When we are sad, He cries with us. When we are happy, He is turning cartwheels in joy! Nothing is too small - or too big - for us to bring to Him. He loves to hear us talk to Him. He loves to talk to us and loves it even more when we are quiet enough in our hearts to hear Him. 

The lie is that God has to prove anything. He's already proven it - to the utmost.

The truth is that He loves us, period. The truth is that because He wants to, He's been 'proving it' every second of every day for years and years. That we don't 'get it' is not His fault. 

How about, instead of saying, 'Prove it' .... we thank Him for already proving it, and ask instead for our spiritual senses to be awakened? 
I'm just saying.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Wave after Wave

For a couple of hours today, I watched one of those all-day-all-nature channels - some have underwater scenes, some have campfires, and others have ocean beaches and such. I was watching waves come in on the shore of some exotic cove.  

I was thinking about nothing in particular, just watching the waves come in. Every one seemed different, but they all had one thing in common: not one wave failed to reach the shore. Not one. 

That started me looking for photos of ocean waves coming to the shore and the thought formed as if it had always been there and I had never noticed. No matter what kind of shore it is, whether it is sandy or rocky or a cliff - the waves come in. Always. 

Photo "Sea Waves Splash Rock"
by 9comeback at
www.freedigitalphotos.net
It's such a powerful picture of the constancy and unfailing nature of God's love and grace. 

It doesn't matter if you are the kind of person who - like the sand - can let the waves of His love sink into you, wash away the blemishes and start fresh every time... or whether you are more like the rocky shore where the water seems to bounce off you ... the waves keep coming in anyway, over and over, wave after wave after wave. It's - that is, God's love - God's grace - is endless, unstoppable, and relentless. Whether we want it to or not, whether we feel it or not, whether we are the sand or the rock or the cliff - they still come. No matter what we throw into it, the waves come. They can't help it because HE can't help it. He loves us. Not because of anything that we do or don't do. They come because He IS love ... and he can't shut that off because if He did, He wouldn't be God; it's His nature. It's Him.

I get it. I finally get it. At least I'm starting to.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Sky is Falling

I saw something recently that made me do some thinking about an old fable I grew up with. What I saw doesn't matter, but the thinking I was doing started to turn into a blog post (as often happens) .... so here I am.

The tale of Chicken Little is the story of an alarmist young hen who one sunny day, got bopped on the head by a falling acorn and thought that the world was coming to an end: "The sky is falling! The sky is falling!" She told everyone she knew about it (Hmmm. Some people would call that "witnessing" - but I digress). Her alarm caused mass hysteria among all the fowl (duck, goose, turkey), and they all ended up being part of a smorgasbord menu for a fox who took advantage of their desire to go tell the king something they'd convinced themselves was something to be afraid of. 

Photo "Chestnut" courtesy of olovedog at
www.freedigitalphotos.net
This kind of thing happens all the time in denominations. Some perceptive (if unenlightened) person gets it into his or her head that such-and-such a belief is something to be focusing on. The word spreads like wildfire, and soon everyone is all in a dither about it, leaving us vulnerable to be the victims of deception - possibly even harming our spiritual lives in the process. We get our eyes off how the Son shines and gives everything life not only around us, but in us. We focus on the circumstances and base our belief on them instead of what we know to be true. We gad about and spread panic and havoc in our own lives and in the lives of others, over things that really just don't matter at all. 


And we put ourselves in danger. We add to what God says by creating rules and restrictions ... and then judge those who don't do the same. We feel threatened by someone who lives his or her life in liberty without feeling the need to toe the party line.  We judge that person: we like knowing what the rules are and that we're following them, so we limit our own freedom and aren't satisfied until everyone else is as uptight as we are. If they refuse to get uptight, we judge them because we feel threatened by a lack of structure, a lack of control. 

And control is key...  because we like to be in control, to have a say, to not feel at the mercy of something that is bigger and more generous and more powerful than we can imagine. We like to either put limits on it, or put requirements on ourselves to access it.

Such was the case with Eve (yes, Adam's wife.)  She wasn't aware of all the reasons God said not to eat of that fruit. She didn't think about how marvelous was His wonderful love toward her. She just knew the one rule of the Garden: don't eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Eating it would make her "die" - whatever that was - and that didn't sound good. So she felt that she had to add to that rule - and adding to it was her downfall. She figured that in order to not eat the fruit, it would be best not to touch it or to even go near the tree. Eventually she came to believe that even those things were forbidden and carried the same punishment. Along comes Foxy Loxy (the serpent) and says (in essence), "Look. I'm on the tree. I'm touching the fruit. Am I dead?" He planted that seed of doubt - and then came the clincher - "Maybe God's been lying to you all this time. Maybe He's holding out on you." It wasn't so much that Eve was convinced by the serpent; it was that she had allowed herself to get caught up in the trap of swallowing tradition as gospel, and made herself easy pickings for the deceiver.

It's no different today.  Just like the Pharisees of Jesus' day whom we all-too-quickly condemn, we add burdens and place restrictions on ourselves and on other believers... and even on unbelievers! I remember hearing one well-seasoned (pickled? stagnated?) believer express amusement at the zeal of a new convert, commenting (in an "isn't that cute" tone) "That's okay, this will pass." (Really?!)  Yet that same believer will be one of the first to sign a petition and/or carry placards when some politician tries to grant equality to all people (even the ones with whose lifestyles we don't agree) calling it an "attack on the sanctity of marriage."  Or object when there are too many "street people" in the church (whatever that means).  Or some such thing.

Seriously? 

I was brought up in the church from my infancy. And I've closely and seriously examined the teachings of Jesus ever since I was sixteen years old - nearly forty years ago now. Nowhere, and I mean NOWHERE, did He ever judge or condemn anyone who wasn't religious. Over and over again, He ate with and enjoyed the company of the dregs of society: tax-collectors, prostitutes, even non-Jews (Samaritans, Romans!) and never once did He condemn. He saved His scathing condemnation for those (like the Pharisees and Saducees) who used their religion like a weapon instead of a magnet, or for those who used their power to oppress (like Herod, and even then, only once!) instead of to protect the innocent. His teachings were more about living a quiet life in faith and love, rather than brandishing a spear and shield and tackling political and societal ills like some holier-than-thou Don Quixote. 

I've also examined our modern society at some length. We can say all we like about how it is broken and so forth, but it's pretty accepting of most types of people.  However, among the things it can't abide are dogmatism, hypocrisy and elitism - three things the church has historically been famous for, ever since 300 AD. It's one of the top criticisms that unbelievers have about the church. It's probably the main thing that keeps them away by the hundreds.

Photo "Sun In The Sky" by
graur razvan ionut at
www.freedigitalphotos.net
We're too busy yelling "The sky is falling!" in their faces ... and - unfortunately - in each other's faces as well. We run all over the place trying to get each other to be concerned and passionate over the same things we are, when God has clearly created each of us different from the other. And we burn ourselves out in the process of our search for sameness. 

We wear ourselves down and worry about keeping hold of things He's already bought and paid for. His yoke is easy and His burden is light - but you'd never know it to look at us. 

Maybe, just maybe, He allowed the acorn to fall from the tree, not to alarm us into trying to convince each other that we're right, or to warn us that we're doing something wrong, but so that we'd think to look up to the Giver of all things, realize that He is right here with us and loving us. Maybe we'd figure out that the Son is still shining, and just say "Thank You."