Blog Archives

Most important: Intelligence, Kindness, or Humor?

I used to think intelligence was the most important trait. Later in life, I decided kindness was.
After this election year debacle, I suspect both are equally important and that a sense of humor probably is way up there with them, because it can free us to see ourselves honestly. Age doesn’t automatically bring wisdom, but it often brings humor which can be the beginning of self-honesty.  And once that happens, you empty your pockets of all those stones you are tempted to throw at others. And that’s the beginning of wisdom.
Kiddos! We ALL see through the glass of our limited perception darkly (imperfectly)! Quick! Get rid of the temptation of those stones before they come back to haunt you.

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Jesus Loves Me, but I Suspect that I’m Not Playing with a Full Deck.

Many years ago after a long and very disappointing search for spiritual meaning in most of the major Christian denominations and even some other world religions, I was encouraged to say a prayer, “Jesus Christ, if you are who you claim to be, I want you to be my Savior and Lord.” This was not connected to any denomination. I didn’t expect anything, because as I explained to the woman challenging me, I didn’t believe in God and I thought Jesus was a very good man, but a delusional idealist that got himself killed. At first, nothing happened and I felt pretty safe that nothing would.

Then suddenly I simply knew with my whole self – mind, heart and spirit, that I was loved unconditionally by God, even though for some years like Madalyn Murray O’Hair, I had opposed anything Christian in the public sector. Suddenly, things from Scripture, which in my search I had read from beginning to end, came together with things I had learned when recently getting a degree in Psychology. And I was filled to overflowing with total mind blowing joy.

That was forty-seven years ago and my journey has since been centered on the person of Jesus as the Love of God fleshed out so we can understand it, experience it, and learn to love like that. I have found that there are some people in all the denominations who “get” that. But all the denominations have pieces of the puzzle that they emphasize to the detriment of the whole picture. Most of humanity including nominal Christians- have simply missed the point of Jesus Christ. To me the greatest tragedy I see in today’s broken world is that Christians are turning people off before they can discover the Love of God in Jesus.

To discover that Love of God in Jesus we pretty much need to put everything we were taught or heard on hold in a mental file, and spend some serious time getting to know the man Jesus personally, discovering in the New Testament that he grew and changed in how he understood his faith and even his ministry over and over until He “got” it and was God’s perfect expression of Love that we could know in the flesh. Then we too will be able to live that process of becoming Love…..never perfectly……sometimes falling under the weight of our human imperfections, but mostly inching closer by seeking grace. It will not be exactly the same or on the same schedule as anyone else, because we are all different. We weren’t all dealt the same hand. Frankly, I think I am one of those who isn’t playing with a full deck.

But God, and only God, knows what we each have to work with, so only God knows how well we are playing the hand we were dealt. We can’t even judge ourselves, never- the-less anyone else. I also learned in my search that the mystics (those that have encountered the Love of God powerfully and personally) of all the world’s religions say pretty much the same thing, “We are all one and whatever we do to anyone, we do to all.”  Jesus said, “Whatever you do to the least, you do to me.” You would think that we would be a lot more careful how we treat people, even those we may unfortunately be inclined to consider outsiders or sinners.

I can’t help but wanting to share the Love of God I have experienced through Jesus.  But I have learned the hard way, that trying to force our own particular Christian beliefs on those who have not experienced the Love of God, is the mostly likely way to prevent them from becoming open to that experience of Love. We can let the world know what we believe. We can teach our children what we believe. But when we force those beliefs on those who have not experienced the Love of God, we risk being responsible for closing their minds and hearts to God.

I have seen over these forty-seven years that each person’s journey is different and though saying that particular prayer has validity and meaning, it doesn’t always have an immediate impact like it did for me at that point in time in my search. Each person is different and each person’s timing on their journey is different. I think some of us are like the prodigal and some of us are like the older brother. I have seen truly kind and good church going people who believe in the Love of God, but only finally experience it with that explosive joy through a personal encounter with Jesus in their seventies or even later.

“Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you.” It’s a lifelong personal journey of growing and learning and the high points come at different times and in different ways for all of us. Perseverance is the key.

The Blind Leading the Blind

I simply can’t help weeping as I watch Christians crucify Christ all over again. I feel like if I identify with Christianity as it is so loudly and cruelly being forced on people, I am joining in that crucifixion. Yet my very heart lives in the gift of unconditional love that is Jesus Christ. Getting to know Him as friend, companion, healer, source of forgiveness and grace has changed my life, continuing to free me from my fears and to challenge me to grow in love for all of creation, including wounded, frightened, hate filled Christians and Muslims. I can only pray, “Father, forgive us for we know not what we do.”

Reflections on Addiction, Divorce, and Homosexuality

Most of us agree that having an addiction is a bad thing.  An addiction is an idol, because it means something controls us. It becomes our God. The tricky part about addictions is that many are not only accepted, but even highly valued in our society. Addictions to work, to religion, to image, to power, to independence, and to self expression are just a few. It may take a lifetime for us to recognize or admit to some addictions, never-the-less get free of them. Spending time visiting at nursing homes has made me wonder if that particular stripping experience is the last part of the journey to freedom for some.  Perfectly good things, like self reliance, can become addictions. Those are actually the hardest to escape, because they are so difficult to recognize as addictions/idols.

Pretty much everyone admits that loving is a good thing, and many of us consider learning to truly love, as the most important thing in life. But truly loving is a bigger challenge than most of us want to admit. Personally, I consider the core challenge in life to be learning to love another specific human being, up close and personal, and on past the point when the scales fall from our eyes and we see that they are not the person we imagined them to be. Sadly this usually happens before we realize that we too are not who we imagined ourselves to be. We may bail out before that reality can level the playing field. Or we may stick it out for less than loving reasons without ever becoming self-aware and make someone else’s life a living hell.

Ideally, we would manage to make it all the way past delusion and self honesty in our first commitment relationship. In an imperfect world populated by imperfect people, that doesn’t always happen. Somewhere along the way, between the second or sixth or ? try, hopefully, we finally figure out that we are part of the problem and get around to asking God to show us how to change.

But if, as Christians, we interpret the bible strictly, literally, legalistically, we don’t get second chances on marriage. We either stick it out or live alone the rest of our life, because Jesus was pretty outspoken about divorce in a society where women were treated as a piece of property without rights or means to live independently. But in our times, I’m pretty sure sticking with an abuser or addict seldom teaches us about loving adult relationships, and quite likely neither will living alone all our life. I’m even more certain that only God knows enough to judge people, relationships, and how many chances any particular person needs to get it right.

One of the few sermons I remember from my teen years is one a priest gave pointing out that all sins can be forgiven, but not divorce if you remarry, because you are just keeping on sinning every day you are living with a second spouse. This was in the early nineteen-fifties in Texas, where any woman who shot her husband for abusing her or cheating on her usually got off scot free. So, in my mind, I heard the priest saying, “If you make a mistake and marry a son of a biscuit, just kill him. God will forgive murder.” Seemed logical to me, but not very spiritual.

In a Barbie and Ken world, we would all marry a person of the opposite gender and have two and one half children, who would give us an accelerated course in learning to love. In the real world some people cannot have children, and quite a few others definitely should not. Some people also don’t seem called to marriage, but often they are called to be there for people in need,  for elderly family members, or as caregivers to people with handicaps.  I really believe all of us are called to relationships or ministry that teaches us to love as Jesus loved us.

In the real world some people’s only chance of learning to love up close and personal and past the experience of disillusionment may be with someone of their own gender. Jesus didn’t say anything about this, though Paul did, but like with divorce, only God knows whom someone can love up close and personal and past the part of the scales falling from their eyes.  However many tries it takes us, whatever gender we marry, the purpose is to learn to love someone as Jesus loves you and that is a major struggle that involves a lifetime of failing, repentance, and new beginnings through the grace of God.

Sarah Young in her powerful little book, Jesus Calling, hears God saying: ” Each of My children is a unique blend of temperament, giftedness, and life experiences.  Something that is a baby step for you may be a giant step for another person, and vice versa.”

Humility is admitting we are simply not capable of knowing the will of God for someone else. Paul says “We see through the glass darkly.” It’s a full time job just trying to understand what God is teaching us through prayer, study, mistakes, repentance, forgiveness, and new beginnings. It takes an ever growing openness to grace to keep our relationship with God and those He gave us alive and growing.

Judging others is one of the ways we use to escape focusing on what God is trying to teach us in our own relationship with Him and with those He is using to teach us how to love. That’s why Jesus said so vehemently, “Cast the log out of your own eye first.”

At the age of seventy-six I’ve figured out that takes at least a lifetime.