Friday, April 14, 2017

Why is This Friday Good?

Today, Christians all over the world remember the day in approximately 33 AD, when Jesus of Nazareth, God incarnate, was beaten bloody (to the point where His spine was exposed from the cat o' nine tails), took up His cross, carried it to Golgotha, and allowed Himself to be crucified. Why on earth would He do such a thing? Why would He submit to the the physical torture of crucifixion? Why did He not respond when the Roman soldiers taunted Him to call the angels and rescue Himself?

The answer is so simple that many people can't believe it. He died for love. Love. Nothing more or less. He died for love of you, me, everyone on the planet for as long as there have been humans.

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life." John 3:16, in case you didn't know.

Jesus wants an authentic, genuinely intimate relationship with you. I'm not going to preach at you about sin, because no one wants to be preached at. You know all those arguments and frankly, I don't have the gift to be an evangelist. Instead, I will simply say that God wants you to know Him, and Jesus is the way.

The crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the central tenet of my faith. Because He closed the gap between us and God, conquering death in the process, I have hope that I will be resurrected as well, to spend eternity in the company of my God.

Why is this Friday good? Because Jesus swept away the barrier between us and God. It is finished. There is nothing you need do but believe that He did that. It's not "believe and be baptized." It's not "believe and give up your lifestyle." It's not "believe and change who you are." It's "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved." (Acts 16:31)


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Losing My Religion (While Keeping the Faith): Believing in an Infinite God

When we last met, I asked you to sit with and think about the implications of a God for whom all things are possible. What does it mean that God makes all thing possible? What is possible with God?

I thought and prayed about this question for three years. Opening your mind to Possible is not always easy, especially when you have been raised with the idea that there are rules about what God does and doesn't do, depending on when in history you live. Yet, Hebrews 13:8 says that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Jesus said "I and the Father are one" (John 10:38), so God is also the same throughout  history. This makes perfect sense to me, as God is outside our limitations of space and time.

So the first breakthrough I had was that God is the same as He has always been, and He always will be the same. Perhaps our current idea that God doesn't speak directly to His people is flawed. It's possible that He still does. It's possible that He still heals, still works miracles, still allows us to see glimpses behind the curtain.

So I started listening for His voice. God had spoken to me before, in the depths of emotional trouble over ... well, it doesn't matter what the details are. I heard Him clearly tell me to be still and let Him work in that situation. I began asking for specific guidance, believing that God still speaks directly to His people, and that He would speak to me.

And that's when things started happening.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Losing My Religion (While Keeping the Faith), Introduction

Discussing faith is tricky. The two topics it's not "polite" to discuss are religion and politics, yet both of them have been at the forefront of social media lately. It is not my intent to discuss politics here. If you want to know, feel free to ask elsewhere.

This is the first entry in what may or may not be a long series of posts. It's largely for me to externalize my spiritual journey over the last 7 or 8 years. The further away I get from organized religion, the closer I feel to my God. This is not to say that I have abandoned all ideas of returning to church. What I am saying is that *for me,* there is value in seeking a more experiential component to my faith.

I grew up in a fundamentalist, nondenominational church. Emphasis is on study, an intellectual analysis of the Scriptures in the context of the original languages and the time in which they were written. For 40 years, I accepted that systematic study of the Bible in this way was not only the best approach to faith and worship, it was also the only way.

Then I started meditating on Matthew 19:26b - "with God, all things are possible." I asked myself, What would it mean if you really, truly, believe in an infinite God? I meditated and prayed on this simple question for about 3 years, and then the answers started coming.

I'm going to leave you with this question for a while. Sit with it, think of possibilities. What is possible if you truly, with all your heart, soul, and mind, believe that God is infinite? Infinitely powerful? Infinitely loving? Infinitely full of grace?

Think about it, and I'll share my conclusions and experiences in a while.

Monday, October 10, 2016

World Mental Health Day 2016, or Why My Depression Is Not an Indicator of My Faith

Today is World Mental Health Day, and I am speaking up about my depression. I come from a subculture where depression and anxiety are considered spiritual problems, and the cure is more faith, or more Bible study, or more prayer. There is a stigma associated with mental health issues, and while my speaking up probably won't erase the stigma, I hope that being open about both my faith and my mental illness will help future generations.
My depression is a chemical imbalance in my brain. How do I know? Usually it takes some time for an antidepressant to work, but within one hour of taking the first dose, I was no longer depressed. Now, if I miss a dose or take one late, I'm a mess - sobbing and ready to die. That kind of sensitivity to the medication indicates a physiological problem, not a spiritual or emotional one.
For someone with depression like that, faith is no disincentive to suicide. I know where I'm going when I die. I have stood at the edge of that abyss, knowing that my choices are to end it and go straight to heaven, to be with my Lord forever, or turn away and face an unknown length of time on this earth suffering and full of pain.
I haven't leaped into the abyss because I've seen what suicide does to the survivors. I saw what it did to a former colleague when his pre-teen son ended his life. I saw what it did to my family when my uncle shot himself. I can't do that to the people I love.
My point is, my faith is strong. I have been immersed in the Bible since before I was born. I've studied and read it for over 40 years. Faith is part of my soul's construction and Jesus Christ is my constant companion. Yet I also have depression and anxiety.
Please don't tell a person with depression or anxiety that they don't have enough faith, or that they need to change their attitude, or worst of all, that they're sinning. The two are unrelated. Instead, ask how you can help. Ask specifically what the person wants you to pray for. Offer them unconditional, unwavering love.
Depression is more common than you think. Be kind, be supportive, and be loving.
OK, I'll climb off my soapbox now.



Saturday, October 8, 2016

St. Francis of Assissi

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy

O Divine Master
Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console
To be understood, as to understand
To be loved, as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
It is pardoning that we are pardoned
And it is dying that we are born to eternal life.

Amen.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Independence Day

Two hundred forty years ago today, a group of men signed their names to a simple document. The Declaration of Independence was a response to tyranny, but the purpose of this post is not to review all the historical reasons for the Declaration or the war that followed.

No, today I am thinking about the tyranny we currently face: The tyranny of fear. No matter where you stand on the religious or political spectra, you face demagogues screaming about who or what you are supposed to fear. Muslims, Jews, LGBTQ people, those nonexistent transgender women sneaking into our public bathrooms to assault our girl children. Homeschoolers. Public schools. Christians. Pagans. Gun owners, gun control supporters. Pro-choice. Pro-life. Cops. Gang members. Immigrants. Refugees. The homeless. The insane. The religious right, the religious left. Right wing fanatics, left wing nut jobs ... You name it. Whoever you are, someone is telling you who to fear.

And where has it gotten us? The United States of America is no longer so united. We are fractured, splintered into factions in every direction. No one discusses important topics rationally - there is only screaming, incoherence, and name-calling. We are pitted against each other instead of those who actually do possess ill will toward us. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate. We are bombarded with hate in our media, to the point where it's almost as if nothing good exists anymore.

Brothers, sisters, those who identify as both or neither, I invite you today to join me in declaring your independence from fear. No longer will I listen to the irrational messages of fear and hate. All the groups I named above? They're all just people. Most of them are trying to live as best they can. Why hate them? Isn't love a better answer?

Non-Christians, you may look away for a moment. I got something to say to my brothers and sisters in Christ. Shame on you. Shame on you for buying into the rhetoric, for forgetting that our Lord says "Love your enemies. Do good to those who persecute you." The Bible says "do not be afraid" 70 times. SEVENTY.  Check out the verses. What gives you the right to be afraid? Is not God your refuge, a stronghold in the day of trouble? If not, you need to spend some time in the Scripture to remind yourself who you claim to serve.

OK. Is everybody paying attention again? Good. Now, I am not talking about the healthy fear that keeps you out of dangerous situations. I'm talking about the fear that underlies your interactions with people you don't agree with, or don't understand, or plain just don't like for whatever reason. I'm talking about the fear that makes you dangerous.


Here;s my promise to you: I will not live in fear. I will not give in to the hateful rhetoric being vomited by those who would be our leaders, in whatever arena. I invite you to join me in a new American Revolution - against fear, anger, and hate.

Remember that the United States of America was founded to be a haven for anyone who was oppressed. We are supposed to be a nation of hope and love and acceptance. Imagine what we could accomplish if enough of us chose to live that ideal in our personal lives. THAT is what will make America great again.

Happy Independence Day, y'all.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Kitchen Yumminess

You, too, can serve delicious homemade chicken quesadillas! Here's how I did it:

4 large boneless skinless chicken breasts
Italian salad dressing
Tortillas - flour or Udi's gluten-free
Butter
Shredded Mexican cheese blend
Lettuce, tomatoes, onion, avocado, salsa

Slice chicken breasts thinly and place in a shallow dish that has a lid. Cover with Italian dressing, put the lid on the dish and shake to ensure that all the pieces are exposed to the liquid. Marinate overnight.

Remove the chicken slices and cook in a skillet until brown. I washed the skillet and used it to cook the quesadillas. Butter a tortilla and place it butter-side down in the skillet. Place cheese all the way to the edge of the tortilla. Place cooked chicken slices on top of cheese and heat over medium-low heat. Put more cheese on the chicken, and then place another buttered tortilla on top, butter-side up. When the cheese on the bottom is melted, carefully flip over and brown the other side.

Serve with chopped lettuce, tomato, onion, and avocado. Top with your favorite salsa.