life

Protecting Hate

The dilemma was this: Wear the long, festive dress that comes to my ankles, the one with the delicate muted gold crochet over a black liner, or the matronly solid black dress that hits just below the knee?

For a wedding reception, the festive gold, right?

It’s almost a no-brainer: The neckline is high and sophisticated – perfectly modest  for a Muslim wedding reception.  It also has a matching shawl to cover my bare arms.

But the shawl is light, crocheted-lacy. My arms show through a little. Is that okay?

And the dress is form-fitting, shows my curves. Is that okay?

I put on the black dress. Boring. Looks like I’m going to a funeral, not a wedding.

Plus, the dress is supposed to be long. And this one has a slit, which gives an occasional peek at my kneecap.

Back to the gold dress. I search out the hub. “Hey hub, does this look okay?”

“It looks great.”

“Do I look immodest?”

“No.”

Do you think this dress is suitable for a Muslim wedding?”

“I have no idea,” he said, and turned his attention back to football.

valentine

The gold dress on another occasion.

I went back upstairs, put the black dress back on and grabbed a black and silver shawl to cover my arms.

Frumpy but safe. Well, except for the black-tights-covered knee cap.

As my daughter and I entered the reception hall, we were greeted by the bride’s mom and sisters.  Her older sister was wearing a gorgeous form-fitting, blush-colored dress. Shoot.

I had never been to a Muslim wedding reception before. There was no ceremony. A Muslim wedding ceremony is more an engagement ceremony and it rarely takes place on the same day as the wedding reception. In this case, the engagement ceremony occurred a full year ago.

My daughter and I were among the first to arrive. The bride – one of my daughter’s best friends –  had previously told her that we would be sitting at one of the tables reserved for family near the stage. But there were no place cards or seating chart, so we just took a seat among the sea of unreserved tables.

The guests trickled in and then the bride and groom made their processional entrance and took their seats at a special table.

A brother, a father, a sister, an uncle and a best friend each made a speech and said a prayer in a language I don’t understand and then translated them into English.

Mid-way through the speeches, the bride’s mother moved my daughter and me to one if the reserved tables.  I’m not sure why, but as I viewed the vast unreserved tables from my new vantage point, I realized that ours had been the only non-covered heads in a sea of hijab wearing women.

The groom is a recent convert to Islam. His non-Islam mother and sisters-in-law were also there with bare heads. We were re-seated with them.

As dinner wound down and the wall that would separate the men and women went up, the bride’s sister-in-law joined our table and the conversation turned to the hateful things people say on Facebook.  She shared an incident that occurred when she was a girl in a Muslim elementary school. A substitute teacher told her class that all Muslims were going to heaven, and all Christians and Jews were going to hell.  She said she raised her hand and said, “My mother and my aunt are Christians and they are very nice people. They aren’t going to hell.”  And although this young woman was misguided about how salvation works, I was struck by her statement.  If her mom and aunt had not been Christians, if she had not personally known any Christians, her little girl mind would have soaked up the teacher’s blanket statement and she would have gone through life thinking that all Muslims are good and all Jews and Christians are bad.  But, since she knew two Christians who were not bad, her little mind rejected the teaching.

She went on to lament that people tell her she’s really nice and that she is their friend to her face and then write hateful things about people of her religion on Facebook.

I offered that when people speak to her one on one, they are looking at her, thinking of her as an individual.  When they are typing on Facebook, they are forgetting her and thinking of a nameless, faceless group.

This morning, as I was brushing my teeth, I thought of an article I read shortly after the 9/11 attacks.  It reported that one of the terrorist pilots trained under the radar at a flight school in Florida. When his former classmates were interviewed, many commented that the terrorist kept to himself and refused their many invitations to go out for a drink or a meal after class. He refused all of their efforts to get to know him.

His refusal to socialize, I’m guessing, was not so much an attempt to protect his identity as it was an attempt to protect his hate.

He didn’t want to get to know his classmates.  He didn’t want to discover that they were decent human beings. He wanted to hate them. He needed his hate to propel him to carry out his part in the evil scheme.

My friend Alma wrote a really good post.  She said there are people hating on France. Saying they don’t deserve our prayers.

Individuals who were shot, killed, injured, traumatized as they enjoyed a Friday night out don’t deserve our prayers?  Wives, mothers, husbands, brothers, children who tragically lost a loved one don’t deserve our prayers? Wives just like yours, mothers just like yours, children just like yours don’t deserve our prayers?  A city, a country numbed and shaken by an attack of evil don’t deserve our prayers? I shake my head. Has Jesus taught us nothing? I read Alma’s post to my daughter and she shakes her head. Really shakes her head.

Lord have mercy.

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faith

Imtheists, Atheists and Trolls

I took a course in college entitled “English from Greek and Latin Roots.”  I took it partly because I like words, but mostly because I wanted to boost my GPA with a cinchy class.  See how I took the noun cinch – “an extremely easy task” – and made it into an adjective?

It was in that class that I learned that the prefix a- means “without”.

For example, someone who is amoral is without morals.

The prefix im- also means without, but it has more to do with being the opposite or antithesis of a thing.

Whereas the person who is amoral may not be aware of proper moral conduct, the person who is immoral knows the rules and chooses to violate them.  Oblivion versus rebellion.

I’ve been observing the behaviors of a certain type of troll and I have come to the conclusion that we need a new word, so I’ve coined one:  Imtheist.

Because there are plenty of atheists – people who are without God, people who are oblivious to God – who keep their lack of belief/faith/awareness to themselves.

And then there are imtheists – people who are actively rebellious against God.  They are the ones who write vile posts and then tag them “Jesus” in order to bait Christians.  They are the ones who troll the “Christian”, “faith”, “God” and “Jesus” tags looking for a bridge under which to live.

I’ll use our new word in a sentence:

Imtheists troll for ichthus.

Like Christians, they are fishers of men.

Trolling for walleye (actually running up to a new trolling spot), way back in the day…

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faith, Light

When Faith Doesn’t Work

A discussion began in the comment section of my last post and, since I have a lot to say, I decided to continue it here.  We were talking about how wonderful it is that Christians can be wrong on certain issues and still “march into heaven arm in arm.”  That was Wally Fry’s phrase and I really like it.

Later Wally said, “The sad truth is, many denominations still preach a gospel of justification by faith and works, or faith with salvation being kept and maintained by works.  Sadly, those who maintain hope in their own efforts as the basis for entrance into heaven…won’t be there in that march.”

The world is going to h-e-double-hockey-sticks in a hand basket and we Christians are still putting time and energy into the old separation of faith and works debate.  It’s silly, if you really think about it, because faith and works cannot be separated.  So let’s think about it.

James said, “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.”

Exactly, James, the two are intertwined.  Jesus said so, too.

Remember when He separated the sheep from the goats?  The sheep clothed the naked, fed the hungry, cared for the ill, visited the imprisoned.  They weren’t even aware that their eternity was at stake.  They just did those things because God was living in them and those are the things God does.  Good trees produce good fruit.  They just do.

The goats, on the other hand, thought they were fine with God.  They spoke godly words: “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but they did nothing to  actually bring anyone peace, warmth or nourishment.  God was obviously not living in them.  Bad trees can look real good and healthy and full, but if they don’t produce any fruit, what good are they really?

It’s not the works you do, the fruit you produce that saves you, it’s the fruit that shows you are already saved. They are evidence that the Holy Spirit is alive in us.

With regard to vines and branches and fruit production, Jesus said, “apart from Me you can do nothing.”  So if Catholics are doing good works, it is only because they believe in Jesus and His Spirit is at work in them.

They BELIEVE in Jesus.

Paul said, “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

We protestants love Paul, right?  So why do we have so much trouble believing that our Catholic brothers and sisters – who have confessed with their mouths and believed in their hearts that Jesus is Lord – are really saved?

Oh, because they are adding on to their faith, and that is WRONG, wrong, wrong.  Salvation = faith + NOTHING!

Faith + 0 = salvation.

Anything + 0 = the thing.  So, when it comes to salvation, if all except faith = nothing, then works = nothing.  Works = 0.

Therefore faith + works (0) = faith.  Follow?

Adding works to faith does not negate faith.  The person still has faith.  The person still believes that Jesus is God and that He saves us.  My Catholic grandma had a portrait of Jesus hanging in her hallway because she believed Jesus is God.  Yes, the Catholic church added purgatory and penance to the mix.  Yes, the Church became controlling and corrupt.  But she believed in Jesus.  Those who corrupted the Church will be judged according to their corrupt deeds.  She will be judged according to her faith in Jesus.

But here’s the thing I really wanted to point out:

Protestants add works to their faith, too.

I know plenty of Baptists who have faith in their perfect doctrine.  They put A WHOLE LOT OF WORK into defending that doctrine.  One Baptist blogger accused me of not being a real Christian because I did not agree with every jot and tittle of her iron-clad doctrine, which she puts a whole lot of WORK into defending.

I used to lean legalistic.  It was the doctrine I was taught.  But then the Spirit pointed out to me that Jesus died for PEOPLE, not doctrine.  Perfect doctrine does not save anyone.  It is important to know the Scriptures in order to know the heart, character and purposes of God and, therefore, I have set my mind to understanding them.  To understanding Him.

But Jesus’s final instructions to us were not to defend doctrine.  That was Paul’s gig.

Jesus said, “Make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (italics added)

So the question is, what did He command us?

Keep the (ten) commandments.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. (Get to know HIM.)

Love your neighbor as yourself.  Which includes:

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”

Hmm, the list does not include “make sure EVERYONE precisely separates works from faith.”  “Actually,” He would likely say, “Please don’t.”

I don’t believe that it’s “all good” and that anything goes.  And I am peeved by Christians who presume to speak for God when they are clearly unfamiliar with Scripture, who make it up as they go along, but I am certainly not going to condemn my Catholic brothers and sisters or exclude them from the march into heaven.

It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to guide me and my Catholic and Protestant brothers and sisters into all Truth, it’s my job to love them, and to enjoy a humble walk with God.

And to have an occasional respectful debate with my friend Wally.

Oh and thanks Martha Kennedy for this:

“Rumi said, ‘To those who love God, the only religion is God’ meaning there are no hairs to split, there is only God.”

Amen.

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Jesus, Light

Stacking Stones: A Big Pitcher of the Holy Spirit

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I thought I’d stack some stones today; tell a story of God:

It was very shortly after I became reacquainted with Jesus .  I was in the car with my sister – the one who is just one year older than me – on our way home.  As we pulled into the driveway, she made a critical remark about the sister who is just one year older than her.  Ordinarily I would have just nodded and said nothing, let her talk, but as I sat there in the passenger seat, I thought, Now that I am a Christian, I should probably respond differently.  

So, in an attempt to put an end to maligning words before they got rolling, I said, “Maybe you should talk to her and not to me.”

Suddenly there was a huge pitcher balancing above me.  It tipped and poured over me.

My sister was speechless.  Not because she saw the pitcher – she didn’t.  She was speechless because I had always been too afraid of her wrath to do anything but nod and listen.

One slight alignment of thinking, of behaving, of identifying with God yielded a pouring out of His Spirit.

There have been times when God has done so much in response to so little.

Do you, dear reader, have some stones to stack, some recalling, recounting and rehearsing of God’s goodness to do?  Write about it and link it back here.  I love to read HIStory.

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life, Light

He’s Alive!

Back when I worked at the pregnancy center, I used to plan and produce an annual Coffee House as a way of raising community awareness as well as some badly needed funds.  This is me and a guy named Lloyd working out last minute projection glitches:

I loved that blazer, I wonder what I did with it...

I loved that blazer, wonder what I did with it…

Every year five performers, or groups of performers, would donate their time and talent and each play a 20 minute set.  They were all wonderful.  It was at the very first Coffee House that I was introduced to the music of Don Francisco and to the song He’s Alive.   It blew me away.  The man who performed it sang with a rich, smooth, amazing, powerful voice while playing his twelve string guitar.  As people were leaving at the end of the evening some of them asked me if he was Don Francisco.  Once I heard Don Francisco I understood why.  He looked like him, sang like him and played like him.

Wonderful memory, wonderful song, wonderful Savior.

Why am I sharing it today and not tomorrow?  ‘Cuz I have another classic to share tomorrow.

Happy Easter Eve:

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life

Getting to Know You, Getting to Know All About You

…Getting to like you, getting to hope you like me…

I searched an old computer this morning looking for a wedding picture.  What I found was a folder filled with e-mail messages that the hub and I sent back and forth when we were first getting to know one another.

Here’s one from me to him:

Some stuff about me:

Girl Scout from Brownies all the way through Seniors, led a Brownie Troop while in my first year of college.
Fastest kid in the 4th grade – even beat Steve Y., the fastest boy, in a big recess run-off.
Was invited into a program for gifted students when I was in elementary school but my mom refused – totally broke my heart.
Served on the student council in jr. high.

Goals in Life:

Know God and make Him known.
Rear my daughter well.
Love extraordinarily.

Musical Favorites:

Michael Card
Twila Paris
Allison Kraus

Things that are really dumb:

War
People who cut you off in traffic
Snagging your armpit while casting
Not believing in God (maybe not dumb, but certainly senseless)

Upon reading my list he immediately checked Michael Card’s tour schedule, purchased some front row tickets, paid extra for a meet and greet and drove us across state for the concert.

Oh yeah, he knew how to impress a girl.

A rose between two thorns

Almost the hub, me and Michael Card

It turns out the hub was on the student council in junior high, too. You gotta’ love a man who was on the student council.

When I talk to middle school boys, I tell them that one of the things I fell in love with was the fact that my hub was on the student council.  And that he played basketball and was a wholesome, nice kid.  “Who you are now,” I tell them, “is linked to who you will be then.”

What were you like in junior high?

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