Interrupted while reading

This is a fairly normal occurrence – I’m reading a book while eating my lunch. People (usually guys) think that they have to comment on it. It happened last Friday, when an older lady felt it necessary to then tell me that she only reads the Bible and Christian fiction. (I was reading a science-fiction book, which usually makes people like her twitch) Instead of letting her “witness” to me (because I’ve seen this play out before that way), I turned it around and said that I can find goodness in everything I read, because God is everywhere. That kind of short-circuited her head.

She has no idea who I am, that I have written several non-fiction Christ-based books. This kind of blind “witnessing” is something that Jesus never did.

In general, the guys use this as an opportunity to hit on me. The ladies use it as an opportunity to “witness”. Both don’t get that I’m not buying what they are selling – for the first, I’m married. For the second, I’m already a member of the club.

But either way, it is rude, on many levels. It just isn’t a good way to start a conversation or a relationship.

I’m thinking of coming up with a script like “Yeah, isn’t it strange that total strangers think it is OK to interrupt someone who is minding her own business, reading a book?”

Is reading in public such an anomaly that it requires comment?

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Sunday meditation 4-22-18

Once a week isn’t enough to show that I love God, to remind me that I am a servant of God. But it isn’t just at a church service that you do that – but life. The church service should give you fuel and marching orders – and the rest of the time you are out in the field – working – planting seeds of hope and love, and reaping joy.

It is where you put into practice what you learned.

I like what monasteries do – you meet at least three times a day to pray. This reminds me of how AA works – you go to as many meetings as often as you would have gotten drunk. So now that you are sober, you pray instead. This keeps you from slipping into sin (of whatever sort) and you stay on the path. It keeps you on the wagon, on the Way.

Sin and addiction are closely related – and are cured the same way. Turn away from your own way of doing things, because those obviously weren’t working. Turn away from the world’s ways of “fixing” problems, which often end up causing more. Turn towards God – the One who is the true Healer. Work out your problems by yoking with God.

Hope for the future

I have been very anxious about the future – about getting older and needing help. I do not have children or a close family (“distant” isn’t just in miles). There is nobody on the horizon that I can count on to help me when I get older, if my husband dies before me. Or, say we are both old, and both need help. Who will help us?

I have long thought that there should be some sort of community, like a convent or a monastery, where people live and work and die together, as a kind of adopted family. But how to go about making that happen? People value their privacy and independence. People are wary of “religion”, yet it is a good center to a community.
We humans were not made to be alone. We lie to ourselves when we think we can do it all. We are not designed that way.

I have researched “co-housing” and similar communities. But I’m nearly 50. I take care of myself, but how long will it be until I need help? One broken bone, one car accident, and things change quickly. The system needs to be in place before that.

I love how religious people who live in community (monks and nuns) spend their lives together. They don’t go away to a nursing home – that facility is part of the property. It is an expected part of life. They don’t pretend that illness and death isn’t going to happen. I think it makes it easier to know that you won’t be tended by strangers – your own adopted family is taking care of you. Your home is there, with them, not shuffled away into some forgotten facility.

My recent Bible readings speak to the answer –

Psalm 142
I cry aloud to the LORD;
I plead aloud to the LORD for mercy.
I pour out my complaint before Him;
I reveal my trouble to Him.
Although my spirit is weak within me,
You know my way.
Along this path I travel
they have hidden a trap for me.
Look to the right and see:[a]
no one stands up for me;
there is no refuge for me;
no one cares about me.
I cry to You, LORD;
I say, “You are my shelter,
my portion in the land of the living.”
Listen to my cry,
for I am very weak.
Rescue me from those who pursue me,
for they are too strong for me.
Free me from prison
so that I can praise Your name.
The righteous will gather around me
because You deal generously with me.

Isaiah 51:12-14
“I am the One who comforts you.
Who are you that you should fear man who dies,
or a son of man who is given up like grass?
But you have forgotten the LORD, your Maker,
who stretched out the heavens
and laid the foundations of the earth.
You are in constant dread all day long
because of the fury of the oppressor,
who has set himself to destroy.
But where is the fury of the oppressor?
The prisoner is soon to be set free;
he will not die and go to the Pit,
and his food will not be lacking.”

They tell me to wait – that God’s idea of time is not my idea. They remind me that Abraham waited 30 years after he was promised an heir – long after he and his wife were past childbearing years. They remind me that I need to put God first and everything else will fall into place.

(Bible translations are HCSB)

As far as the East is from the West

As far as the East is from the West

Today, January 25th, 2018 is the feast of the conversion of St. Paul the Apostle. What does “conversion” mean? In Christianity, it means “repentance and change to a godly life”. It is very closely related to the Hebrew concept of “teshuvah”, which is often unfortunately translated as “repentance”. A better way of translating it would be “a turning” – to turn away from sin, and to turn towards God.

What are you following? Or better, WHO are you following? Which way are you headed? What direction are you pointed? What is in front of you?

Consider this verse from Psalms –

As far as the east is from the west,
so far has He removed
our transgressions from us.
– Psalm 103:12

And now consider this quote –
“When a person stands facing the east, that person needs but a turning about to face west. Likewise, a sinner needs but a slight mental turning-about to be far removed from one’s transgressions.” – Rabbi Nathan David Sidlovtzer (19th century Hasidic rabbi)

How far apart is the East from the West? A long distance, you’d think. Yet, really, the only difference between East and West is direction. If you turn around, you are facing the other direction.
It isn’t about distance, but direction.
Our sins are removed from us in that turning towards God.

It isn’t about how far away we are from our sinful past, but what direction we are pointed. It doesn’t matter if you have been sober for an hour or a decade – it matters that you are on the right path.
Every time we turn towards God, our slate is wiped clean. We get a second chance.

(Inspired by Hasidic rabbi Nathan David Sidlovtzer’s quote “It is only one step to turn from east to west. Likewise a sinner needs but a slight mental turning-about to be far removed from his transgressions, east to west.”)

Spiritual but not religious – poem

“Spiritual but not religious”?
So was Jesus.
Jesus didn’t come to create a religion
he came to start a relationship.
Jesus wants you to know
that God loves you personally.
That God isn’t some
amorphous thing in the sky
waiting to catch you screwing up.
God loves you
God made you.
God wants you
to know God personally,
directly,
without an intermediary.

Jesus couldn’t stand
the religious authorities
of the day
and how they made sure
that people
saw them praying,
and saw how big
their prayer shawls were.

Jesus wants people
to show
how big
their hearts are.

Jesus wants us
to be in relationship
with each other
and with God.
He wants us to serve God
not by religious observance
but by taking care
of each other.

Jesus would rather a person
never go to church
than spend all their time
in church
and none of their time
helping people.

With Jesus,
your religious observance
would be in a soup kitchen
or helping people clean up
after a tornado
instead of sitting for an hour
in a building, in “church”.

Jesus came to tell you
that you
are the church,
not the building.
That we collectively
make up living stones.

Jesus didn’t want us
to be anything
other than equal.
We are not supposed
to have
ordained and lay people,
but all the same people.
We’re not supposed
to have
bishops and popes.
The only one
above us
is God.

So “spiritual but not religious”?
So was Jesus.
His teachings are true.

The missile alert

The missile alert wasn’t a mistake. The island had been targeted. It was real. A missile had been launched. And then it was gone, instantly.

There had been a blip on the radar, an object coming fast. And then there wasn’t. The radar tech had to look again to be sure. He tapped the side of the machine. He hit refresh. And it still wasn’t there. Had it gone into stealth mode? Was there technology they didn’t know about? Was it still coming but they couldn’t see it, had no way of seeing it?

There wasn’t time to send up a pilot to check it out. The initial estimate said 15 minutes. If it was still there, then there was only 12 left.

Should he turn the computer off and back on to reboot? He’d lose a precious two minutes that way. He had already sent the alert out to everyone. Everyone on the island who had a cell phone had been notified. The sirens had gone off. There wasn’t a distinctive wail for “missile” so the usual one for any and every imminent natural disaster was used. Tsunami, volcano, hurricane – it didn’t matter. The same sound was used because it all meant the same thing.

Stop what you were doing right now.
Grab your go bag and seek cover.
Nothing else matters.

But now he wasn’t so sure. He called the nearest radar site and asked to speak to the tech. Email wouldn’t do. He needed to hear it in the other tech’s voice, see what was happening through his eyes.

But that radar too was clear, and that tech too was confused. They ran back the recording. Yes. There had been a bogey. And then there wasn’t.

They decided to say it was a mistake, a bumped switch, human error. Nothing to see here. The truth wasn’t something they could have handled anyway.

Every town had one. Every town, village, city, named and unnamed had one, and only one. One was enough. Not all were needed – only a dozen were required at any one time. In a pinch, only one was truly necessary, but that required a great deal of focus on their part.

When the sirens went off
(for none of them had cell phones, having long ago given up that tech)
– like the Amish who waited 50 years to see if ballpoint pens were safe,
-the rest of society being their coalmine canaries,
they stopped what they were doing, the same as everyone else.

It wouldn’t do to call attention to their sacred work, their holy mission. They could never speak of what they did, never claim credit, never get fame or money for their work. It would cheapen it, tarnish it, make it less like love and more like a one night stand.

They used the only tool they had at hand, but it was the only one they needed. They prayed. They didn’t pray for anything specific, because they would never presume to tell the creator what to do.
They simply prayed to.
They prayed to the One who knew all to do what was best.

They never became anxious or upset during such emergencies, because they knew those reactions were fruitless. They put their faith in God, and God alone.

And God sent the angels,
Elohim, the Lord of hosts,
the commander of the heavenly army of angels,
the One who fights our battles for us,
yes, that God,
the God who defeated enemy armies
with hornets,
with fear,
with walls of water.

That God sent his angels who surrounded the missile, who made it cease to be, who reminded the metal Who created it, and then rendered it
into a thousand billion atoms,
a google’s worth of yes and no,
of positive and negative
and quarks
and up and down
and sideways
and that was enough.

It simply ceased to be, because they reminded it of its true nature, not as a singular weapon of war, made by men, but as many elements of nature made by God, and God alone.

What God has created,
let no man re-create,
or break apart
or make in his own image,
impressing his own will,
his own hardened, angry, violent nature upon.

Nature is not a mirror, not a plastic thing for us to mold to our will, to shape to fit our plans, and ownership is a form of slavery. These people knew this, and knew it well.
And the missile simply wasn’t there anymore.

How Jesus heals

Jesus heals by taking your burden from you, or carrying it with you. Just like how we can hand him our worries, we can hand him our diseases.

Because they are the same.

Diseases are worries that have grown because they were not addressed early on. Worry, fear, and doubt if not dealt with early on become cancer and addiction.

For instance, your liver does not fail on its own. It grows weak because of your drinking, which you did as a flawed coping mechanism for stress.

Disease is the result of you carrying a burden that you aren’t made to.

Give it Over and Up to Jesus – that thing you are worried about. That thing you are trying to control.
Don’t let the world become your worry. Don’t let the world become your idol – the thing that controls you. Put your faith back into the hands of God.