Peg

The “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” concept only works so far.  How do you deal with the situation when they don’t return the favor?  I feel like I’m constantly giving out 20 dollar bills, and not getting anything back – not even a thank you.

I have often felt like a square peg in a round hole. How people treat me is often at odds with how I feel they should treat me. I asked God about this and God said that perhaps it’s me. Perhaps I need to change my expectations of the world.

God says “My ways are not your ways.”

Jesus asked his disciples to stay in the world but not to be of the world.

Jesus said to forgive people without count.

Jesus said that we should treat our enemies with kindness, and in so doing we will prove that we are children of God.

God says to me that I am supposed to stay the way I am and stay in the world as it is,

and feel that hurt

feel that pain

feel that dissonance.

…in part, so that I understand and can empathize with people who are excluded and left out. But also so that in holding my ground I can teach others how to act in a Godly way.  Sometimes we are to be teachers through our actions.

Many years ago,

I had asked God to be able to spread the messages he gave without attention to me. I want to be anonymous, and live my life without fame. This way I can go to the gym or the grocery store and live like a normal person. In the meantime God uses me as a conduit. I want to be a good steward of the gifts that he gives me.

 

So why am I upset when a message I share is taken up and adopted (stolen, in my mind) by someone who acts as if it is theirs? I don’t want fame or money, so it doesn’t make sense for me to be upset.

I brought this to God this week and got a lot of peace.  That feeling I had is the human part of me, rearing its ugly head.  It is important that I felt it, and brought it to God.  That is what God wants – to heal all of our brokenness.  But we have to take it to the Healer to be healed.

Here is what it means to be a child of God: It isn’t natural, but spiritual.  We are all created by God at birth but the true children of God, once they are spiritually awake, then choose to be further formed and shaped by God. They choose to align themselves with God and then let God work through them.  It is a two-way adoption.  God wants all of us to choose to follow God’s ways, but not all of us do.  It is our choice.

I need to give my immature feelings of jealousy (because these messages are not mine, but God’s) to God, so God can transform them into selflessness.   I need to do this in order to become a pure vessel for God’s Spirit in this world.

Sometimes for healing to take place, there has to be a reconciliation – a balancing of the accounts.

It is important to let other people know how you feel.  They can’t read your mind. It is like being a bill collector who issues the bill (with interest) ten years after it is due.  It is better to issue the bill early, to get it over with and have the accounts settled as soon as possible.

Jesus says that if we have an issue against someone, to not take our offering to the Temple, but to leave it and go make peace with that person first.

So today I wrote sent this message to a lady in a head covering group I belong to:

“Hello!  I thought it would be important to write you.  At least a year ago I mentioned something on the “Cover me happy” Facebook page about how it would be a good idea to focus on the idea of covering, instead of covering with a lot of fancy wraps.  I said that too many fancy wraps would make it difficult for the beginner, or someone who is poor and can’t afford a lot of scarves.  I also pointed out that modesty is an important part of covering, so calling attention to it with fancy wraps didn’t make sense.  Not long after I said that, you posted on the Wrapunzel page this very idea, saying that you’d read it in another group but wasn’t sure who said it.  Then it became a thing, where people were posting their single scarf wraps and tagging you.  I felt very hurt by this, since I am the one who suggested it.  I said nothing at the time, but now that something like this has happened to me in a different context, I think it is important to speak up and set things right.  I don’t want fame for the idea – it was just an idea.  I don’t want to be tagged when people post when they wear one scarf.  But I also don’t want my ideas claimed by someone else.  I think it is important to make things right, so that is why I am writing, to let you know how I feel.”

I have no idea how she will respond to it.  She probably doesn’t even remember.  Because of the message system on Facebook, she might never see it.  But I needed to write it.  It is important to balance the accounts.

Yesterday I wrote to the administrator of a group I’d been submitting newsletter offerings to, saying that she could not claim that she was writing the posts.  My first several posts were given the anonymous “from a member” credit.  I wasn’t sure about this – there was nothing saying that what we submitted would be anonymous.  But now it didn’t even say that, and at the bottom I noted that she’d said the contents were copyright (to her group – not to me).

Perhaps it was good for it to be anonymous – that way one member wouldn’t stick out.  I was also still wrestling with the idea that at least my messages were getting out.  I still don’t want fame or attention.  But I also don’t want my work to be claimed by another.

It is why I say that anyone can use anything I wrote for “The Condensed Gospel” for free, but they cannot claim that they wrote it, or charge money for it.  I don’t want money for it – but I also don’t want someone else to make money on it.  I now feel that credit is a sort of money in a way.

So now I’m holding my ground and speaking up. I’m telling people that they have hurt me as soon as I realize that they have, without “charging interest”.

 

The blind man’s sight and the blindness of the Pharisees

Jesus went and found the man after they had thrown him out. He said “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

The man asked “Who is that, Sir, so I can believe in him?”

Jesus answered, “You have seen him. Actually, he’s talking to you right now.”

“Lord, I believe!” he said, and he began to worship Jesus.

Jesus said “I have been sent as a sign of God’s judgment, so that those who are blind will see and that those who are sure of their sight will become blind.”

Some Pharisees who were standing nearby overheard this and asked “Are you saying that we are blind?”

“If you were blind,” Jesus replied, “you would be free of any guilt that would cause your sin. But because you say that you can see, you are fully accountable for your sins.”

JN 9:35-41

Overdue fines

I’m always surprised when people say they don’t carry cash. The card reader might not be working. Then you can’t get whatever you were trying to buy. Sometimes that means your meal or your tank of gas. You don’t have to carry a lot of cash – just a $20 is enough to take care of most situations.

This is something I see a lot at the library. People will build up their fines over time, and when it gets over our limit of $20, they have to pay. They haven’t been paying all along, and now it is a big deal.

But this is part of our culture. We react only when we have to, rather than to prevent a problem.

They will pull out their credit card, and we only take cash or check. Sometimes they will say “But it is a check card!” like that means anything. It doesn’t matter what account the payment comes out of. It matters what form the payment is in. We take paper, not plastic. We don’t have a way to take electronic payments.

Sometimes it is right before closing and we can’t take any money at all. We aren’t like retail – when we close the doors to the public, we leave too. We don’t stay afterwards to count the money from the fines. We take care of that right before closing. When closing happens, we aren’t on the clock anymore, so we don’t want to be there.

So then, they have a stack of books and they can’t check them out because their fines are too high. They knew they had fines all along. They’ve been paying off a bit here and there. They’ll pay off just enough to use their card, but not any extra. So then, just one thing, one day overdue, and their fine is over the limit again.

One guy got really mad and said that we needed to “get with the times” and take cards. I told him that he needed to stop turning his stuff in late. He didn’t like it at first, but then he realized I was right.

If you do it right, the library is a totally free experience. If you do it wrong, your account can go to collections. Your choice. It isn’t the library’s fault that your stuff is late. It certainly isn’t the fault of the person behind the desk.

Blaming other people for your own problems is the reason for your problems.

On ministers, and spoon-fed faith.

I’m wrestling with the idea of ministers. I’m wrestling with it from several directions. I have an issue with ordained ministers. I have an issue with people who aren’t ordained and call themselves ministers. Then I have an issue with the entire idea of ministers at all. So I’m going to try to work out where I’m coming from and where I’m going by writing about it.

I believe that each person has within them a unique perspective. I think that each person’s insight into what is Truth is valuable. I liken it to the story of the five blind men and the elephant. Each person in the story was touching a different part of the elephant and each person thought they had the whole thing. They thought that their particular understanding of what they were experiencing was truth. But each person was wrong because they only had a small part of it. It was only when they started comparing what they were experiencing did they start to understand that the elephant was far bigger than they had apprehended. This story is usually used to illustrate how each faith tradition should interact with each other and that no one faith has a lock on who God (YHWH, Allah, The Divine, the Creator…) is. But I expand this story. I use it to point out that each person’s understanding of God is valuable. Everybody needs to share.

With a top-down lead church, with a minister in charge, nobody gets to share. It is a passive experience. The people sit and listen to one person say what God is. Perhaps some people need that for a while. Perhaps they need a God with training wheels. But I’d rather them learn that they are strong enough to ride on their own.

I have a big problem with the entire idea of people being passive about their faith. I think it is dangerous. I think our souls are too important to be handed over to another person. I think we all need to be accountable to each other, and we need to be in community. I’m not about mavericks. But I think everybody needs to participate in the conversation as to who God is. When we entrust our spiritual health and our spiritual path to one person it is giving away our own power.

I believe that knowing Truth is like looking into the heart of a diamond. I believe that each person sees the heart of the diamond in a different way. What you see is valid for you, and what I see is valid for me. Together, when we compare notes, we gain a better understanding of what is there.

Then these pop-up strip-mall churches concern me. There is no training. Would you go to a doctor who gets his authority just because he says he is a doctor? He hasn’t been to medical school. As far as you know he hasn’t even read a medical book. He believed that he has a gift for healing so he says he is a doctor and starts accepting patients. He also has no oversight. There is no established authority over him that monitors what he does. There is no recourse when he does something wrong. So why not have the same training and oversight for a self-proclaimed minister? If you are going to say you are in charge of the spiritual health of others, then it is important that you aren’t going to mislead them.

There is a guy in California who styles himself Archbishop Carl Bean. He founded the Unity Fellowship of Christ Church in Los Angeles. Archbishop? Really? Is that all it takes? Get people to listen to your take on the Bible and then apparantly you can call yourself anything you want. Most of the links on his church’s website are asking for donations for his retirement fund. I find this highly suspicious. I had a coworker whose grandfather started the church that he goes to. The grandfather’s title is Bishop. Again, we have the same issue. Start a church, get a title. Something seems very wrong about this. I also know of a lady in Nashville who calls herself “Minister Lois Grady”. She uses this title on her book and her Facebook page. I know people who are ordained priests who don’t use their title on their Facebook page. They’ve had three years of graduate school and gone through enough paperwork to kill several trees and more committees than the President meets with to get that title. In every mainline church there are rules about who gets to be called Bishop or any other title. You can’t just declare yourself Bishop. You can’t just declare yourself a minister, either, which is the first step.

But then what does Jesus say about ministers? Let’s look at Matthew 23: 8-12. Jesus says “8 But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. 9 And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.” (NRSV)

So it sounds like Jesus is against the idea of anybody calling themselves “Father” or “Rabbi” or “Teacher” – or any other title indicating authority.

None of the apostles were ordained. Neither was Saint Francis, who founded the order of the Franciscans. Neither was Mother Theresa.

Then there is the idea that every person who is a baptized Christian is a minister. We are all called to preach the Gospel, the good news that God loves us and has forgiven us of all our mistakes and faults. We are all commanded to love and show love. In the same way that Jesus loved, we are to love.

There are faiths where there are no ordained ministers. Quaker and Sikh are two that come to mind. But then there are establishing faiths that have a very strict system in place to ordain ministers, and that is still not a guarantee that they are any good. They can in fact be criminals in cassocks. Just because you have passed a criminal background check does not mean that you won’t ever break a law in the future. And when they do break laws, their crimes are covered up so they can continue to damage their congregants. So being ordained and part of a faith tradition that says there is oversight is no guarantee of safety or true teaching.

I’m not alone in seeing problems with the church. There are Facebook groups called “Christians for a Change”, “Christians tired of being misrepresented,” “Kissing fish: Christianity for people who don’t like Christianity,” and “The Christian Left.” There are hundreds of books talking about how it is time to strip away a lot of the “stuff”

I believe each person needs to take an active role in their faith. I believe that every person needs to wrestle with their faith in a similar manner as Jacob. I believe that each person needs to read every holy scripture from every faith tradition. I believe that people need to stop having their faith spoon-fed to them.