Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Ruach El - God's breath

The above Hebrew term is normally translated "the Spirit of God" - but ruach in the Hebrew means breath. That breath is warm, loving, true, gracious, good, lovely, pure, and kind. 

I have noticed something disturbing when I spend time on social media (and I spend more time than most people my age on social media!)  Whenever someone posts a story of something they have experienced or of something that someone else has done that is truly inspirational, and makes the average person smile and believe that there is some goodness in the world after all ... and that person does not mention God in his or her post, there will invariably be that one person (or more) who will judge the person who posted the story for not "witnessing" or pointing the conversation to eternal things.  

In the comments that follow such judgmental comments, there is always a backlash against the person who so commented.  Usually those folks who react the most angrily are those who have been wounded by Christians before (big surprise, huh.) That should tell us something right there.  We often do more harm than good by our insistence on hijacking someone else's story to promote our own agenda.

Here's the thing.  God isn't looking for watchdogs; He's looking for worshippers.  He's a big boy and He can defend Himself, and He can do what He wants whenever He wants ... without our help.  He is not looking for people to jump all over someone (who has been kind and considerate to the less fortunate) just because they weren't "missional." (By the way, my blog's spell-check does not even recognize the word 'missional.')  Jesus said, "He who is not against us is on our side."  And frankly, people who are down and out have had lots of experience with self-appointed prophets who have to turn every conversation into something about spiritual things.  Usually those experiences have not turned out very well for them - they have left every encounter like that feeling condemned (and definitely not encouraged to seek God).  

I speak to born-again believers in this blog because that is my chosen audience.  I don't post my Christian blog on social media to all of my friends, just to believers who are among my friends. (I'm sure I will get some flak for that, but do you really want unbelievers to hear something intended only to wake us Christians up and smash our preconceived notions?)  If you are the kind of believer who feels a responsibility or a compulsion to steer every conversation toward the Lord because He will be displeased or ashamed of you if you don't, this message is for you.  If you take nothing else from what I say, take this:  You are not the Spirit of God.  So, stop trying to do His job for Him.  

I know that we have been given the great commission; I am not disputing that.  However, I would rather live a generous and joyful life, being kind to people, and have them come to me and ask what it is I have because they want it (which has happened occasionally) rather than to shove God down someone's throat who is not ready to hear about Him.  The Hound of Heaven will not renege on people; people are His passion!  He loves everyone (not just the Christian!)  He is not willing that anyone should perish, but that all should come to repentance.  And it is HIS Goodness that leads to repentance.  His goodness.  Not our arguments and programs and posters and videos, some of which use extreme shock-value to condemn this or that practice (did you catch the word condemn?)  The Spirit of God is not about that.  He is about being good to people.  All people.

He reminds us - all of us - that He loves us.  No matter who we are, or what we've done,  He loves us.  Deliriously, unconditionally.  If your concept of Him is any different, remember that Jesus loved people - and He was only frustrated by those who were religious and who condemned others by insisting that they obey some set of rules.  

Photo: "Homeless Man" by
Mantas Ruzveltas at
www.freedigitalphotos.net
If Jesus walked the earth today, He would be spending time with the homeless, the pimps, the addicts, and the mentally ill far more than with the churched.  The reason is clear - they need Him! (The truth is, we ALL need Him, but it appears that some believers have forgotten that.)  He would not be engaged in spreading panic, hatred, and prejudice the way I have seen some believers do.  He would welcome the refugee, accept the cross-dresser, and listen to (and cry with) the pregnant girl who thinks her only option is abortion. 

When I see believers "standing up for righteousness" (which is the way some of them have chosen to veil their hatred for people who are not exactly like them) by posting condemnation and judgment all over the social media, I cringe because I know that they don't see how damaging their comments are to the cause of Christ.  I wonder - when THEY see a homeless person - whether they would spend time with that person and listen to his or her story, and buy them a coffee and a muffin, or whether they would not be able to get past their own nose (you'd smell bad too if you couldn't take a shower very often) - and even avoid looking at the homeless for fear of getting hit up for money (which they assume would be spent on booze). Or (as is often the case) whether they would prefer waiting until someone does something good, and then criticize the way that person does it.

I also know that it does no good to complain about something if you don't have a suggested solution.  So here is mine, for what it is worth; it might surprise you!!

Let yourself experience God's unconditional, passionate and accepting love for you.  Realize in your innermost being that it comes with NO conditions, NO rules, NO judgment.  Fully embrace that.  See Jesus on the cross as God's rescue operation for the whole world: past, present, and future - every person.  The more you experience His limitless, no-holds-barred love, the more you will automatically love as He does - and the less appearances, rules, and 'being right' will matter.  

No programs. No shoulds.  No musts. Just Him.  God's breath - Ruach El - surrounding, permeating you ... warm, loving, intimate, and generous.  Live from that perspective, know that He loves, and love does not judge ... and see your relationships transform, watch how God revolutionizes your attitudes.  It's amazing - and so freeing!  

Real change happens from the inside out.  In you, in me, and in them.  He's got this. So we can shed those heavy I've-got-to-carry-the-weight-of-the-whole-world shackles. It's so unnecessary.  I'm just saying.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The dirty little secret

Shame.  There, the secret is out.

It's everywhere.  At first, I was going to talk about the church - because there is a whole heaping lot of shame in the church, from Sunday school on upward into the sanctuary - ashamed people shaming people to make their own shame not seem so shameful. (Sighhh...)  But, truth be told, the church doesn't have a monopoly on it.  A better term would be (I suppose) religion - inclusive of pretty much all religion worldwide.  

Or maybe it goes even deeper than that.  Maybe it's part of human nature.

Ouch.

Shame is always, ALWAYS evil.   It is pervasive: it slinks in like a venomous snake and yes, it can kill! (Check the suicide rates!)  It ruins everything it touches.  Moreover, it touches everything ... and it is the hardest poison to eradicate from our psyches because it runs so deep.

Listen to what Dr. Brené Brown says about shame:

I define shame as the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection. 
I don’t believe shame is helpful or productive. In fact, I think shame is much more likely to be the source of destructive, hurtful behavior than the solution or cure. I think the fear of disconnection can make us dangerous.  


Photo "Chain and Hand" courtesy of
worradmu at
www.freedigitalphotos.net
Dr. Brown also said in one of her writings (sorry, Dr. Brown, I can't remember exactly which one! :(  ) that the difference between guilt and shame is the difference between "I DID something bad." and "I AM bad."  That's an important distinction to make!

Would it surprise you to know that according to the Bible, we are not created to feel shame?  Check out Genesis 2:25 (this was before the great temptation) "Now the man and his wife were both naked, but they felt no shame." (NLT)  This was life the way God intended - shameless (that is no shame, not even a conception of shame) because of a loving relationship with the Creator.  

And yet the first thing that the first people did when they did the first thing wrong was jump past guilt ... to shame.  Genesis 3:7 - "At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness.  So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves." (NLT)  

Shame is a human construct.  Humans created shame - not by disobeying (as is the common teaching) but by believing that God - who had only ever loved them - would stop loving them as persons if they messed up.  

And we have been doing that ever since.  Not only that, but we have been doing it to each other ever since.  The moment we suddenly believed that love had conditions: ifs, shoulds, and musts ... was the moment we, both as a race and as individuals (including Christians) fell from grace.  Grace is the highest, the best, the ultimate position; the moment we add conditions to it, we have slipped back into eating the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil (aka morality) and all the judgment of self and others that goes with that.  And that, friends, is shame.  We have convinced ourselves that we are (or someone else is) "unworthy of connection" (B. Brown, see quote above).  

Shame naturally makes us want to do two things: (a) cover our own perceived inadequacies to make ourselves feel better (thus making it easier to point the finger at someone else), and (b) hide from what we think will be certain punishment.  I often wonder what would have happened if Adam and Eve had just admitted what they had done without trying to pass the buck.  I guess there's no knowing that for sure - but knowing God's love as I am starting to - things might have turned out differently for them.

We - like them - underestimate the love of God and turn it into a contract: we do this and He does that.  It's not like that at all.  He loves.  No matter what we do, how far we go, He loves us and is delighted in us.  He has already redeemed us, loved us without measure from before the foundation of the world, embraced us before we even knew He was there.  It's a fact, not dependent on our behaviour but dependent on His character, even more dependable than the sunrise.

Unconditional love kills shame.  Oh, that we could understand how deep this goes!  

In the words of a song I learned once, 

Chains be broken, lives be healed,
Eyes be opened, Christ is revealed.
            - - "You'll Come" - by Brooke Ligertwood (Hillsong)

Yes. Yes!  Chains ... be broken!

Friday, December 25, 2015

The bitter and sweet seasons

Christmas day is a day some people sing about, look forward to, dread, and just endure. Everyone seems to have feelings about it - either warm, nostalgic ones or cold, harsh ones.  I've felt both extremes and everything in between.  

Some people try to minimize the spiritual side of the holiday and are militant about de-christianizing it, making it politically correct. Others try to shove 'the reason for the season' down people's throats (news flash: everybody gets it. It's called CHRIST-mas - celebration of Christ. You don't have to prove it to everybody) to the point of plastering social media with messages designed to make people feel guilty if they don't click Like, type "Amen" and click Share.  

So that's enough of the soap-box.  

My thoughts the last couple of days have been on the bitter side of the season, how it is so hard to go through it without the literal life of the party being around to share Christmas with.  This is our third Christmas without our youngest; she passed away just about 2 months prior to Christmas 2013, and the waves of grief and the bitter taste of loneliness are sometimes unbearable.  Yet, strangely they can mingle with the sweetness of good friends with whom we can share festive seasons.  

I know that the best I can do to be healthy inside my own skin is to be real, to not fake joy, and to pour into someone else's life in a meaningful way.

I don't think that holiday seasons (be they Christmas, Thanksgiving, or Easter or whatever else) get any "easier" when there has been a loss.  The feelings I have learned to pack away to deal with everyday life come raging to the fore when special dates or times of year come to pass, and that is only natural... and right.  

I can't apologize for feeling what I feel. (Often, allowing myself permission to have those feelings is the difference between function and dysfunction.... repressing feelings is never good for the soul.) However, I can try to make someone else's day brighter.  And I know that feelings are usually transient. They happen ... and then they pass.  This is a good thing to know.

Hubby reading the Christmas story -
the presents can wait.
This year, we had thought that our plans to have someone else share our Christmas morning celebration were going to be cancelled, and we were dealing with the disappointment of that (knowing that our friend was with her family, where she needed to be). 

We were just sitting down to breakfast when I got a text.  "I'm back home now," it said. "Can I still come over?" What a blessing that was!  within a half hour she was in our living room, listening to the Christmas story and joining in our sharing around the tree.

Later, another friend joined us, and we shared a meal. And pie. 

We all talked well into the evening, and each of us savoured the sweet of the season: the connection we feel with people who know they are loved and who love in return.  And though we each had a real reason to feel that bitterness, we chose to pour in the sweet, and taste the best of the holiday with each other. 

Friday, December 11, 2015

Escaping the siege

I've been trying to figure out what these past few months has felt like.  In late summer/ early fall, we decided as a couple (after much agonizing) to leave the church.  Not just OUR church, THE church... by which I mean the organized, religious system that calls itself the church.  

I can't begin to describe the growing dissatisfaction that we had felt the last few years while we ran faster and faster on the hamster wheel of performance, always wondering if we were doing enough, feeling guilty and blaming ourselves if our prayers were unanswered, and frankly, feeling embarrassed to invite people in - where we knew they would find what we had - another, deeper level of rejection - where hurting people thrive on pushing hurting people away.  

It's equally as difficult to describe the pulling that we felt toward a deeper and more intimate relationship with Jesus - a call to simplicity, to receiving His love and loving Him back. More and more we saw the futility of our involvement in a system that values nickels and noses, attempts to control its members through shame, fear, and judgment.  Rather than build bridges to those who embrace lifestyles or choices with which they do not agree, this system builds walls to keep them out.

As I pondered this last night, a little story from 2nd Kings 7 came to my mind.  There were these guys living on the outskirts of town - walled in and afraid to leave because "the enemy" was out there. Or so they believed.  The town was under siege.  Food was scarce and deadly expensive; they had even taken to eating bird poop and charging money for it!!  People were getting desperate, even to the point of devouring their children... it was horrible.  Anyway, these guys near the gate were outcasts - they were lepers.  They were not welcome in society, but they could not leave the town because after all, they were members of the community. 

Finally, these guys got fed up (pun not intended).  They figured, "Well, the enemy camp is out there - and it most likely has food.  If we go and surrender to the enemy, they might accept our surrender, and let us live (at least we would get something to eat) and if they kill us, we would have died a lot more slowly inside the wall."  So ... they left ... hearts in their throats.  Desperate.  It was a desperate move made by desperate people.

Meanwhile, the Arameans outside (many hundreds of them) were literally hearing things - and got it into their heads that the king whose town they were besieging had hired people to come and attack them.  So they split!!  Enter the lepers .... who found meals half-eaten, left in haste ... and they could not believe their fortune!  They ate, found money and put that away, and thoroughly enjoyed themselves!  

Photo "Buffet Set On Heated Trays Ready To Eat"
courtesy of jk1995 at
www.freedigitalphotos.net
Eventually, they looked at one another and said, "Hey, let's tell someone about this!  This is such good news that we cannot help sharing it - the enemy is gone, and our neighbours can get out of their prison!"  So that is what they did.  By the end of the day, prices were back down to normal, and there was not one hungry person in town. 

I think the reason that I thought about those guys inside the wall, the ones who were so up against it that they left to take their chances outside, was because that was - and is - (in some ways) our story.  There was no sustenance for us in all that protection and so-called safety.  We were starving to death.  We saw a few atrocities, people turning on each other, but most of the time it was just a slow, lingering death of the soul: adherents trying to keep people from straying, unhappy and/or self-righteous people trapped by their own acceptance of things the way they were, with no desire strong enough for something more, no desire that would cause them to question their reason for being there and doing what they were doingSo many people around us were living in fear, in a siege mentality (us versus them) and distrusting anything against which they had been indoctrinated, hell-bent (yes, that was intentional) on obeying the rules and excluding those who didn't

And it was like that everywhere. We had attended dozens of assemblies and it was the same wherever we went.  We had tried to fit in, but in every single place, we were eventually relegated to the role of the leper.  Either because we were not of a certain social or economic stratum, or because we were introverted, or because we were not linked with the founding families of the particular assembly we were in, we were slowly but surely kept at arm's length, treated like ... like lepers.  

But our isolation only gave us more time to think, to ponder how, in a community that stated that it followed the teachings of the One who is Love personified, the behaviour of its members was anything but - and we were as affected by this phenomenon as the next member. There were occasional bright spots, surprising us with kindness and caring (but only when someone died). Or there were brief periods associated with the arrival and ministry of people who seemed to hear from God, and for a time, we thought things might change.  But inevitably, they went on to greener pastures, and we were back to the same old thing. We wondered if things would ever change for good.

We compared the characteristics of this organization to those of the organism that the church was designed to be (as described in the book of Acts) and we could find nothing in common between the two!  "Is this all there is?" we asked ourselves.  "Is this the abundant life?"  If it was - we surely wanted a refund.... and if it wasn't ... then what were we doing? was there any way out?  Time and time again we tried to conform ourselves to what was expected, rededicate ourselves, and influence the system from the inside out.  And over and over again, we depleted our limited emotional resources; every time, we died a little more.  

Frustration grew.  Countless times we returned from church-based events stressed, exhausted, and - well - angry.   Sermons (both from the pulpit and in unofficial settings) from various people were little more than steam blown off by those frustrated with the people who sat back and never tried, so all we heard was, "You're not doing enough, not believing enough, not giving enough, not praying enough, not holy enough, not evangelical (or missional, or social justice-minded) enough ..." and the list went on.  I remember turning to my husband at one point near the end of that part of our journey and saying, "If I want to be yelled at and taken on a guilt trip, I'll go visit my mother. 

And the siege mentality!  That idea that the world is a horrible place and the people in it are against us permeated everything.  We were told that certain people with certain lifestyles or beliefs were not to be trusted, or at best they were deluded and needed to be converted.  Instead of reaching out to people, we were encouraged to lobby local school boards, write to politicians, sign petitions, support groups known for heavy-handed prejudicial treatment of certain minority groups, and decry perfectly legal medical procedures (if horrific to our sensibilities and beliefs) and vehemently condemn those who chose to undergo them.  In doing so, we were unwittingly contributing to their mistrust of the church and ensuring that they would not come to us for help when they needed a listening ear.  

Photo "Ruined House"
courtesy of sattva at
www.freedigitaphotos.net
All around us, the walls were crumblingMore and more, we were seeing how our participation in this organization was counter-productive to the values of love, acceptance, and gentleness that Jesus taught and that we espoused.  We got closer and closer to the gate of this impoverished and starving community.  "Just hang on. It will get better," people said.  "Revival is just around the corner." We bought it for years ... until we didn't. 

And when we made the break, it had to be clean.  We left; we did not look back. We left our assembly, and we left the system

And you know, we expected to feel guilty... or afraid, or nervous for what we would do or where God would lead us next (if anywhere)... but all we felt was relief.  There was relief.  As the weeks passed, we remarked how much less stressful Sundays were, how much we enjoyed being able to rest instead of tearing our hair out and banging our heads against a brick wall for five hours or more almost every weekend. Our relationship with our daughter deepened. God set up contacts with people in His timing, and we had such precious times with them, times that we never would have had if we hadn't ventured outside the gate.   

There are times that we wonder if we did the right thing.  There are times when we miss frequent contact with people, wonderful peopleBut we know that we were having our souls sucked out of us by the system.  Outside, we may not have found any bountiful banquet yet, but we can detect the faint odor of food, and we know we'll eventually find it.  And you can bet that as soon as we do, it will be way too good to keep to ourselves.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Tempest in a coffee cup

It started when a certain coffee shop chain decided not to feature an obviously Christmas-y decorated cup for the holiday season like every other coffee shop chain.  The most vocal outrage came from .... Christians.  First they bought the coffee and wrote Merry Christmas on the cups (ummm, doesn't that put MORE money in the chain's account?) and then there were calls to boycott ... and the debate raged hot and heavy on social media .... and so on, until everyone was (and is) sick of it. 

Oh come ON.

Photo "Homeless Man" courtesy of
Mantas Ruzveltas at
www.freedigitalphotos.net
Of all the things to crusade for, this is what gets attention? A paper coffee cup?  How about the homeless in your neighbourhood?  How about the teenage girls who don't think they have any other option but to get an abortion when they get pregnant? How about the co-worker who is so lonely that he is considering suicide - how much would it cost to sit with him over a cup of hot chocolate and a cookie once in a while? or smile and say hello to him by name in the corridor?  How about the neighbour who needs his grass cut but can't afford to repair his lawnmower? How about you use your imagination to see how many ways you can do some good for someone else?  Who freaking CARES what your coffee cup has printed (or not printed) on it

I absolutely detest confrontation.  But I am so steamed about this small example of self-righteousness that I want to confront people who argue and judge over things that just don't matter. They don't!  It doesn't matter whether Joe Blow politician does or believes something you don't agree with.  It doesn't matter if people say Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays.  It doesn't!  

Stop trying to Christianize everything!  It doesn't matter whether the preacher wears a tie.  It doesn't matter whether people believe in the big bang theory.   News flash: there are a lot of good-hearted people who aren't Christians. And they (and others who aren't quite so nice) are watching us, watching how we act and react.  And they have concluded that we're a pretty pathetic bunch.  

And they're right. As a group, in Western society, we really are.  A lot of us see demons in dishrags, angels in the shape of birds, and we can't even enjoy a simple pleasure like a sunset without turning it into an opportunity to beat people over the head with creationism. Here's another news flash: that doesn't "win souls." That makes people want to avoid us - and not because we're being persecuted for righteousness' sake.  It's because we're weird. And not in a good way, but in a space-cadet, whacked-out way!!

The truth is, we don't live in a Christian society.  We live in a secular society. So did the early Christians.  You didn't see them carrying placards and staging demonstrations against the blood sport at the Coliseum.  You didn't see them writing their emperor to have the taxes lifted.  You didn't see them going around judging people either.  What you saw was them loving people, being good to people.  You saw them enjoying life, being happy, and being generous.  

Christians are real people in a real relationship with a real Person.  And that Person is really into being good to people (ALL people), loving them, bringing them joy, no matter where on the journey they are.  He went to the limit and beyond to rescue the whole world... to show us His love. 

Put that in your coffee cup and drink it.  Live THAT out in real love and compassion, without trying to one-up someone else or prove a point.  I dare you.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Summer Fall Winter Spring

In a temperate climate (one with four seasons), we take summer for granted. Where I live, it lasts a relatively short time - full of hot and humid days, hot and humid nights, broken only by rain ranging from gentle to torrential. In the fall, the temperatures begin to descend, the humidity gradually departs accompanied by still more rain, the migratory birds leave in groups, and the plants prepare for hibernation.  In the winter, which (here) lasts the longest of all of the seasons, the temperatures plummet and rain falls in the form of snow - sometimes little, sometimes much - and most people (and animals) hole up until it passes. And in the spring, which starts later than the calendar says it does, temperatures creep upward, the snow and ice melt, birds return, and there is a hint (growing ever stronger) of fresh green grass as the stiff ground yields under our feet.

Throughout the seasons stand the deciduous trees - graceful or gnarled, tall or squat, their beauty is unsurpassed. They are the first to signal the changes in season - in summer, their seeds have fallen and their leaf colour deepens, and their canopies grow large and shade those who wish to seek the shade; in fall, they produce less chlorophyll and their hidden colours emerge before the leaves dry out and fall; in winter, they patiently wait, sap frozen in a state of suspended animation, and long before the first blade of grass, the sap starts to flow and their branches are pregnant with new life.  

Photo "Autumn Gold" provided by
Simon Howden at www.freedigitalphotos.net
So like the stages of life.  It seems that in our prime, when we are flourishing and thriving, we provide automatic shelter for those who need help - until they don't anymore, and our little ones, the ones we protected for so long, fly away.  Then, the colours of our life emerge as we stop trying to rely on ourselves and just relax and let go - the beauty is indescribable and yet, we are so often unaware of it.  Eventually, the moment comes when we let go completely, and fly away ourselves.  What is left behind is a cold reality for those left behind - the grief of winter, where nothing moves except the frigid winds of loneliness and despair.  Sometimes, all that can be hoped for is to endure - endure until the spring comes ... for it always comes, even though the winter seems the longest. 

And then comes the shift in the wind, the warming of the earth, the imperceptible lengthening of the days.  And it is the trees - bless them, they have not died as it appeared - which burgeon with hope, and in the very spot vacated by the leaves that departed months ago, new shoots form, unseen except for the swelling promise: buds from which will eventually burst new leaves and seeds for the next generation. 

Photo "Maple Seeds" courtesy of
Carlos Porto at www.freedigitalphotos.net
Those who have died have flown, and in fact, nourish the new growth of those who come after - a never-ending cycle of birth, growth, life, maturity, death, grief, and rebirth, - all showing us that it is not an end when circumstances change.  There is only change.  Though change is hard to endure, it is one of the unchanging things about life.

The sap still lives; the sun still gives light and (though it does not seem so in winter) warmth to sustain us.  And in the very spot where once there was loss, there will be that spark of life, even though it might look like it is dead and hopeless now.  There is hope.  Life is eternal.  The container, the manifestation of life may disappear, but it does not mean that life ceases to exist.  It only means that it has changed form.  And someday too, we will join in the dance and learn for ourselves what it is to change form, to fly away and in so doing, nurture those yet to come.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Light in darkness

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about John chapter one, and more specifically about the references in the first few verses to Light and darkness. It says in that chapter that the Light shines in the darkness.  Now, to me, in my human understanding, that means that the darkness exists but that when the Light shines, the darkness flees.  That's not what the passage says. It says that the Light shines IN the darkness, ... and that the darkness (does not flee, but) does not comprehend the Light. 

Whoa. That takes a person aback, doesn't it?  It doesn't make sense to us because we go into a dark room, we turn on a light, and the darkness goes away - that's what darkness is, isn't it? the absence of Light?  

Not here in this passage. John is talking about a kind of darkness that it doesn't matter how bright the light, it does NOT go away, nor does the darkness have any concept of Light.  Well, what kind of darkness cannot understand Light?  

There is only one answer that is possible: blindness.  

Suddenly all makes sense.  Jesus said to the Pharisees, "... because you say, 'We see,' your blindness remains." (John 9:41) 

And herein lies the darkness, dear friends.  The darkness consists of insisting that everything is fine, actually believing that it is so, while all the while stumbling around in darkness, in blindness, not even aware that there is so much more: so much more freedom, so much more love, so much more Life than we ever thought possible. Yet all the while, blazing white Light is all around, piercing through everything, illuminating Life all around us, shooting rainbows and moonlight in our paths, and yet unseen by the blind who will not see. 

The darkest of all blindness is the one in which the blind one has convinced himself that he can see.  It is religion, religious ritual and self-righteousness, hypocrisy and wallowing in fear that God will take out His big cudgel and squash us like bugs. But ... God is not like that.  That's why Jesus came!! The Word says, "God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself..." (2 Cor. 5:19).  

And Jesus stands and proclaims that the Spirit of God is upon Him to preach the good news to the poor, to proclaim deliverance to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, and to set free those who are oppressed. (Luke 4:18).  In reality, those who are blind in the way that John 1 reveals are poor, and captive, and oppressed - by virtue of their own -- OUR own -- blindness!  Jesus came to prove God's love to us in a way we could understand, and we killed Him for it in our darkness - our lack of comprehension.  But when we first turn to Him and ask Him to remove our blindness, He does - and we can see the Love that was there all along, and the Light that has brightened our path if we but knew it! This Light is transformative, redemptive, and irrevocable (Rom. 11:29). 

Photo "Sun In The Sky" courtesy of graur razvan at
www.freedigitalphotos.net
When we are in darkness, in blindness, we can do absolutely nothing to rid ourselves of this sad state; HE is the only One who opens blind eyes.  We only ask.  He does it - He does it because He wants to do it, and has been waiting for us to ask Him!  

This makes salvation and even faith itself (Eph. 2:8d) something that He does on our behalf, and rightly so - because if we could, we would boast about how much we did, how much we believed.  It is HIS faith!!  Galatians 2:20 says in the original Greek, "...and the life I live in the flesh, I live by the faith OF the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me."  Not IN, but OF.  That means that it is JESUS' faith and we can have confidence in His faith because it does NOT waver!! 

Can we see how much this frees us to live in happy gratitude?  Can we? The pressure is off! the love of God is unconditional, the grace of God is free, and the faith of Jesus in His Father is rock-solid! Hahahahahahahaha!! What glorious liberty!  what amazing love!  how bright the Light is!!  How delirious the joy that comes from total and complete acceptance in the Beloved One! 

Can I make it any more plain? This is GOOD news!! This is what the apostles were ready to die for!  No adding to it; that only takes away from it!  No reservations - that leads to bondage!  Pray God that He will open our eyes to see the wonder of His full, free, intense, passionate, scandalous love for us!