War Begins in the Minds of Men

You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

If I believe that Jesus actually said the words above, and believe that he meant them and that He was telling the truth, then I have some things to think about. We all do,actually.

love your enemiesAnyone who knows me remotely well knows that I am anti-war. I believe it is a complete hypocrisy that people call the United States a Christian country while we are warmongering gun idolators. In my mind, a truly Christian country would have extended an olive branch after 911, seeking reconciliation. To those who argue that we had to “defend ourselves,” what we did was not self defense, it was retaliation and political opportunism. Self defense is more along the lines of the increased airport security we implemented. Anyway, that is beside the point when your defense is the Most High who created the amazing universe.

But I really shouldn’t be worried about what the nation or, in fact, what anyone else is doing. The focus right now needs to be getting the darn log out of my own eye.

What I am concerned with is digging the roots of bitterness and hatred out of my own heart. Change starts with me, right? In ourselves, in our families. Then our communities, then our nation, and then the world.

Who among us doesn’t harbor animosity toward another person? You know, the kind where if you read on Facebook that they got a bad haircut or gained 50 pounds, you wouldn’t be exactly sorry. Who hasn’t sat ruminating about the unkind words another person has said to them? Or talked about how messed up another person’s attitude and behavior is?

The thing is, we’re not supposed to do that.

At all. I don’t see any exceptions. Jesus never says, “Love your enemy except when they talk trash about you.” He doesn’t even provide an exception for when the enemy murders your entire family. Or invades your nation. Nope. He says, “Be perfect.”

It’s all well and good for us to talk about the atrocities that ISIS is committing, for example. Once again, someone has provided a convenient way for us to get the focus off of ourselves and onto a “bigger” sinner. We don’t get to do that, though. Jesus says, Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” Not just ISIS. He means me when I think hateful thoughts about someone who hurt my feelings or behaves in a manner that I don’t agree with.

Jesus knows the nature of reality. In the spiritual world, there is little (if any?) difference between murdering someone physically and murdering them in your spirit with your thoughts and words. Our entire universe is constructed of energy, and thoughts and words have their own energy. They are REAL. We must not hate or entertain the demons of hate.

We should pray for ISIS. We should say a quick prayer for the harried person who cut us off in traffic. For the friend who betrayed us. For the parent who didn’t meet our needs. For the husband who cheated. Everyone.

If we truly believe in prayer, how could we doubt for even one second that it’s more effective than bombs or any of the other fallout from hatred?

The Two Words of the Bible You MUST Believe

God is our fatherI’m not going to mince words here — this is ridiculously simple. Jesus gives us the key to recognizing not only who WE are, but who OTHERS are as well in the Lord’s Prayer. Without further ado, the two words that will transform your world are…

OUR FATHER.

When you believe this — and I don’t mean intellectually, but from your HEART — that the supreme creator of the universe is your genetic FATHER… Well, then.

You are a SON or DAUGHTER of God. Period.

Not only that, but everyone else is ALSO a son or daughter of God.

Whoa.

So how would that change how we treat ourselves and others (love our neighbor as ourselves)? I have to say, if we aren’t treating EVERY SINGLE PERSON in our lives with love borne of the recognition that we are borne of love itself and are interacting with the sons and daughters of love, then we don’t really get it. Not yet.

It can be difficult to understand. Our culture puts up blinders that obscure reality. We’re told that we are evil, and indeed, there are impulses that we must fight that certainly are. But who we are at the core? Sons and daughters.

Not servants, not slaves, not sinners. Sons and daughters.

If you truly believe in your heart that you are a genuine SON or DAUGHTER of the Most High, then you will love yourself. You will be free to express your true self, the opinions of others be damned.

You will find it impossible to judge. After all, some of the other sons and daughters might not have seen their birth certificate yet, but that doesn’t change who they ARE. Our only role is to shine the light for our literal brothers and sisters so that they know their true identity. And how better to do this than by treating them as sons and daughters of the most amazing royalty?

Do we treat everyone in our lives as the royalty that they are?

If not, why not? Could it be that we haven’t truly internalized the truth of our lineage?

MORE Good News

joy of the lordI’ve said before that I don’t think the Good News that Jesus talks about has anything to do with accepting a particular story about his life or you go to hell. That seems silly, to be honest, and not a little depressing. I think the REAL Good News that he wanted us to share is at least two-fold, and has little, if anything, to do with what religion often tells us.

First of all, the Good News is that God is LOVE. He loves us incredibly and enormously. Unconditionally. We don’t have to earn it — only see and accept it. And that’s more difficult than it seems. The dream I had about God’s transformative love literally changed my life, and I try to keep its truth in mind every single day. Once you can accept God’s love, its enemy FEAR goes away. Because if God loves you — wait, if GOD THE CREATOR OF THE FREAKIN’ UNIVERSE LOVES YOU — then you have absolutely NOTHING to fear. Nothing. Not even death. Death, in the light of God’s love, is like changing from a raggity outfit you bought at the Goodwill into some Armani duds, I’d think.

The second part of the Good News is that we don’t have to wait for Jesus to come or any other future event to access the Kingdom of God. Nope, as Jesus said, it is HERE. Now.

Think of it as another dimension that sits comfortably around us. To access this dimension, you have to have a certain frequency — the frequency of love. That is a very high frequency. In the worldly dimension that most of us are currently in (the time-based linear frequency), we are operating at a much lower frequency — the frequency of fear. Hence, war, hate and all that other bad stuff.

You can access the Kingdom by deliberately raising your frequency — your vibe. :-D

Let me give you an example.

I woke up this morning feeling absolutely joyful. Note that I have some good reasons to feel the opposite way right now. A good friend is angry with me and much worse, my mother came over to my house crying because she is fairly convinced that my older son Sky has “passed to the other side.” She had a dream in which he came up to her and spoke to her, woke up crying and has been crying on and off ever since. You know that I think dreams can reveal truths, and this dream was SO real to her. When I called the sweet lady he stays with to check on him, she told me that he took off over a week ago without saying goodbye or letting anyone know where he was going. Disconcerting.

As soon as I heard this news, lower-dimensional thoughts began to come. Vivid images of myself cutting my wrists, shooting myself in the head came to mind. Regretful thoughts about my parenting entered. For a moment, I thought about simply walking out the door, sticking out my thumb and going somewhere — anywhere but here, as if I could escape grief.

Then I remembered that I didn’t have to subject myself to these thoughts and the feelings that accompany them. I reminded myself that my son was very happy and well in my mom’s dream. I reminded myself that God loves my son more than I ever will. I thought about how my son astral travels on a regular basis and could have simply stopped in to say hello, which is what his friend told me is likely the case. I thought about how God has him in His amazing hands no matter what form his soul is in. Then I focused my thoughts back on my new business, which is where they had been before the drama started. And I ended up having a very good and productive day.

Not giving into fear and despair is stepping into the Kingdom. It feels spectacular.

Here’s a quote from the apostle Paul:

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…

The war is our thoughts. And just like the Third Amendment says that we don’t have to quarter soldiers in our homes, nor do we have to give space to thoughts that war against the knowledge of Christ’s presence in our lives RIGHT NOW. For me, following Jesus gives me the insight and direction to wage an intelligent war against this crap.

So when I catch myself thinking an ugly thought about the argument my friend and I had, or worrying about Sky, I DESTROY it. It’s my choice, and I have been given the power to do so. And then I get to feel that comfortable heavenly dimension settle around my soul. It’s wonderful.

The joy of the Lord is our strength. :-)

Maybe Heaven Isn’t What You Think It Is

the kingdom of heaven“Our Father, who art in heaven.”

I’ve spent some time thinking about these words lately. Like the word “our.” OUR father. All of humanity belongs to God, not just a select few. Or “Father.” That we have the DNA of the creator of the universe.

Last night, I was thinking about the words “in heaven.”

I don’t think one word of Jesus’ prayer is meaningless. So why would He say that our Father is in heaven? It sounds like, “Our Father, who art somewhere in the sky where we go when we die.” What would be the point of praying something like that?

What does “in heaven” mean?

I think it means an alternate reality. The true reality. What we see here is an illusion. The kingdom of God is at hand, is within us. It’s a kingdom we can see if we just become as little children.

Think about God as an ocean, with us being the fish.

The kingdom of heaven is at hand.

I really, really want to find the kingdom of heaven, and stay there. I’ve experienced it before. It’s a feeling of absolute peace, like you’re sitting in the palm of God’s hand, and no matter what happens, nothing external can bother you. Unfortunately, I seem to simply visit that place and then return fairly quickly to this plane.

I think part of the reason might be because I have this tendency to have to try to figure everything out. This is something that children don’t do. If a parent tells her child that she loves her, the child doesn’t question that. Children generally trust their parents.

Once a child becomes a teenager, though, the questions begin. So does concern about what other people think. A five-year-old doesn’t care if he’s wearing his brother’s hand-me-down shorts, but later, he’ll want to go to Abercrombie and Fitch. And when was the last time you saw a teenager clapping hands and singing at the top of her lungs in the car? It’s like they’ve left something crucial behind.

It seems like everything that the child leaves behind is what we need to seek in order to enter the kingdom of God.

Trust.

Innocence.

Lack of concern about social standing.

Knowing the reality of unconditional love.

There is not a formula for reaching the kingdom of heaven, though, other than “Seek, and you shall find.” Or, “Ask, and you shall receive.” And I believe that we must seek and ask with our whole being, and not half-heartedly. Like we would sell everything we own for that priceless pearl. Everything.

The cool thing about God being “in heaven” is that He’s always here. We just need to open our eyes. I think there’s a reason why Jesus kept healing blind people. Sure, they needed to see, but why are those stories in particular told when the apostle John tells us that “the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” if he were to tell us of all the things Jesus did.

I think the reason Jesus healed the blind was to show us that we need to open our eyes.

There is a reality where you are okay, no matter what happens.

Where there is no hate.

No worry.

Where every single person walking on the planet is one of God’s beloved, and you can see that.

I LOVE just thinking about this.

Vision of Hell

When my son had his vision of heaven, that wasn’t the only thing he saw. He told me that God also showed him hell. The reason was that he would then see why missionary work was so important.

Hell wasn’t like the popular depictions we see in cartoons or movies. It had streets, and there were rich people and poor people. There were demons, however, and there was torture.

In some ways it sounded a lot like earth, only with the evil and pain made more visible.

He saw a divide between heaven and hell. He told me that people could cross over from hell to heaven.

“How do they do that?” I asked.

“The people who are in heaven LOVE them until they can cross over,” he said.

I’m aware this is not considered to be a biblical concept. However, in recent days I’ve thought about that vision. Whether it is literal or not, it contains truth.

vision of hell

If we love people here on earth, they too can learn to love and be a part of God’s kingdom. And it’s really hard for people to love others if they haven’t themselves been loved. So we have to show them.

It has a snowball effect.

If everyone loved like Jesus said for us to, there would be no more war, no more gangs, no more bullying. All kinds of hell would be wiped out.

I think this is the main thing we need to remember. All this arguing people do about how to worship God and so on is ridiculous. The command is simple.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’There is no commandment greater than these.”

I believe Jesus was God made visible. He showed us how to be. Then He left. He gave us the task of being him in the world. Therefore, we have no excuse for being anything but loving — loving people out of hell and into the Kingdom.

Laying it Down for Love

pure religion is this

I hope yesterday’s post didn’t come across as arrogant. Because I don’t know all the answers. I don’t even know a few of them. I just have this overwhelming feeling that I need to somehow break free of the culture — go barefoot, live in a tent in the desert, pour myself into something else besides my mortgage and the bills I ran up while not knowing how to celebrate Christmas.

Sometimes I feel angry because it’s so hard. I always imagine myself dismantling culture — taking apart the scaffolding that holds it all together and seeing what lies underneath. Living that thing, whatever it turns out to be.

I’d like to ditch the anger and live entirely in love. I definitely need to quit worrying about what other people are doing and focus on living my life in the manner God directs.

Today, my eyes lit upon a verse in the book of John. I’ll bet you’ve heard it before.

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love have no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

Whoa.

First of all, it’s a command. From God.

Next, Jesus says to love as He loved us. Frankly, that part blows my mind.

Finally, he tells us that love is laying down our lives.

When I read that last one, the first thing that comes to mind is throwing myself in front of bus while knocking someone else out of the way. I don’t think that’s what He meant, though. At least not entirely. I think He means that we are also to give up our lives in this sense:

For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. Matthew 16:25

Life perhaps partially being that temporal comforts with which we surround ourselves. Our house, our car, our grandmother’s Persian carpet. Our dreams for the future. Our present activities.

So if I’m right, and this is even a little bit what He means, then I should be willing to lay it down if it will show love to a brother or sister. Maybe it can be picked up again later, maybe not. And yeah, maybe it even means jumping in front of a bus. Although I’d rather not.

I think this is how people are able to live in mud huts after having grown up in suburbia. It’s how people can risk their lives spreading the gospel in New Guinea. It’s the reason a lawyer chooses to represent the poor instead of raking in six figures in corporate law. These people have laid down their lives for Love.

I want the same. Because ultimately, we all lose this life whether we want to or not.

Photo credit: Public Domain Photos

A Tiny Touch of Grace

drawing

My husband.

There’s nothing quite like a yelling match with the person you love the most to make you feel like a piece of slime that needs to be cleaned out of the refrigerator’s bottom drawer.

The morning started out with my younger son telling me that no, he could not go to the “bamboo forest” on the local trail with his best friend because he felt too anxious. I’ve wrestled with agoraphobia for years, and this was not welcome news. No one wants their child to live in a box of their own mind’s making.

My mood dark, my husband and I got into a disagreement within seconds of his having got out of bed. It was the kind of disagreement where after about five minutes, one person goes outside and angrily smokes a cigarette while the other person cries and slams doors for sheer physical release.

After I finished slamming doors — yes, that was me, I don’t smoke — I got into the shower. I said a prayer. I was still crying and I didn’t say much. I did ask God to help me not to give in to hopelessness.

Then I went into the back room to draw with markers. I am like a child that way. Darkness recedes when I am using the creative part of my brain, as opposed to the mean tormented part of my brain, say.

I tried to draw a tree. It didn’t go very well. I turned the tree into a face. It turned out to be my husband’s face, and I made it into a card for him.

I think this is how miracles work — most of the time, anyway. It’s like God touched me with a bit of His grace, saying something like “It’s okay — now here’s some love you can give your husband.”

Because believe me, I was not feeling very loving when I was making scribbly marks on the paper.

The hand of God works in little ways that end up being quite big, really.

Rambling Angry Stuff That May or May Not Have a Point

homeless
Sometimes the pain is so great I feel as though I can’t speak.

Yesterday we endured another visit to the psychiatrist, where once again the S word was tossed about liberally. There were also words like “lifelong,” “chronic” and “disability.”

I am ashamed to say that I have been feeling sorry for myself. I know it is like holding the door open so that the long-toothed depression beast can stroll right on in and make himself good and comfortable. I struggle to maintain a sense of reality.

People do not like to think about the S word. I’m one of them, since I don’t even like typing it. My own parents don’t call and ask how my son is doing or how I’m holding up. I suppose it is painful for them, so they, like almost everyone else, pretend it is not happening, that it does’t exist.

I’m so angry I could spit. Obviously, I’m angry that both of my sons, as well as my brother, have fallen victim to this disease or whatever it is.

I’m angry because I asked for support and didn’t get it. Well, not from the people I asked, anyway. The thing is, I’m well aware that I have no right to my anger because no one owes me — or my son — a thing. And I am blessed because God sent someone into my life who personifies His love, and that person also loves my son and played an instrumental role in our not going to the ER a few days ago for a psych eval.

I don’t know what to do with the anger, though. I want to say hurtful things. I want to blame someone else for this pain.

I feel like I could just explode, I really do. I’d like to see the fake constructs of our society made into visible strips of paper so I could tear them apart and the truth would lie there naked for all to see — and deal with.

We are all like blah, blah, blah. Love others. Love people with mental illness. Love unlovely people. Behind the words “Jesus loves you” are often “but I don’t, not really.” I think this has made it easy for people to mock my savior, this hypocrisy he’s so often associated with. And we all know how Jesus felt about hypocrites. That’s one thing I love about Jesus. He was not fake at all. He lived what he preached.

There was a catalyst to this anger.

My good friend Gen and I were at Starbucks a few days ago, sipping coffee on the patio. There was a man restlessly pacing the sidewalk, muttering to himself. Gen went up to him and asked him if he was okay. I followed.

It turned out he wasn’t okay, which was no surprise. He had suffered the loss of three family members in the space of two months. He was either manic, on drugs or both. We prayed with him.

I have to say that two months ago, this would have been completely outside my comfort zone. I’ll never forget the time Gen and I were in Java Jacks and she said, “Well, let’s pray about that.”

I was thinking, “Here? Now? In front of people?” but kept my mouth shut as I furtively looked around the room to see if anyone was watching.

I’m over that now.

At any rate, this guy was surprised. He said that he wanted to attend church, but didn’t know of one where he wouldn’t be judged. This was a valid concern. I figured some folks wouldn’t be able to get past his wearing swim trunks in public in January.

I realized that I didn’t know of a church I could invite him to, although some Facebook friends had some ideas. I thought about how my son doesn’t fit into most churches and how I couldn’t go to a church that couldn’t embrace people with the S disease, drug addicts, and even criminal histories, even though most probably have good intentions.

Sometimes things are messy.

Sometimes things aren’t safe. That’s okay. Jesus never says that we are supposed to stay safe. He says this instead.

In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple. — Luke 14:32

I interpret this verse to mean that we may be called to literally give up everything — up to and including personal safety and even our lives, especially in light of this verse:

Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. Luke 17:33

What a hard teaching. To me it is clear, though, that hanging onto socially respectable behaviors and ideas about the lifestyle we feel we are entitled to is the wrong path.

I don’t want to attempt to fit the gospel into the lifestyle that I want to have.

Anyway, so Gen and I got into the car and I started to cry. Our encounter with this guy just hurt my heart so much. So many people are lonely and have such awful lives. We have to show them love, we just have to! Love in action is it, it is everything. It is the only way to defeat the devil that I can see.

And I’m thinking, what if there were more people like Gen who were willing to put whatever they are doing on hold to comfort a stranger, to cheer a friend’s son out of suicidal ideation, to randomly warm people’s hearts for no reason other than to lift them up?

Can you imagine the type of world we’d live in??

We’d all see the kingdom of God every day.

Beauty and the Beast Is a True Story

beauty and the beast
I woke up this morning with two things on my mind. The story of Beauty and the Beast, and this verse from John 1:

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.

Beauty and the Beast is not an ordinary fairy tale. The rescuer is not a prince on a white horse, but a woman of virtue and a pure heart. This fairy tale has been around for years in the oral traditions of several cultures. I believe it came from God.

The beast is selfish. He demands a human sacrifice for Beauty’s father taking a rose from his garden.

Beauty offers her life in return for her father’s.

She lives with the Beast, and eventually truly loves him, which destroys the beast, revealing the prince within.

True love conquers all.

This is what the gospel is all about.

This is not the gospel that is being preached. The gospel that is being preached has a lot to do with having the right beliefs, which vary from denomination to denomination. It often has to do with following a set of rules that we probably aren’t even supposed to worry about.

Jesus and his disciples were not preaching Jewish Mosaic law to the people. They were preaching — and showing love. They were eating with the undesirables of society, challenging hateful judgementalism. Love permeates the gospel. Jesus’ feet were washed with a woman’s hair and today’s equivalent of $35,000 or so worth of perfume. What love.

Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus. What love.

Jesus cast out demons easily. I think love had something to do with it. Darkness can never, ever overshadow light. Light, on the other hand, is a different story.

The Beast Prince was overtaken by a demon, it seems. What caused the demon to break away from the prince? Love.

Love heals. Jesus didn’t mind “breaking the Sabbath” to heal a blind man. He followed the law of love, which as He says,

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

All the laws have to do with love for God and other people. If you commit an act of adultery, you are not being loving. Stealing and killing are not loving. Worshiping idols (money, good looks, other people) is not loving towards God. Sleeping around tends to be exploitative and selfish, not loving. Lying/gossiping about others — not loving.

Much of this seems to have gotten lost in our quest to understand the Old Testament and reconcile it to the gospel, however. I know that many, many people will disagree, but I’m not convinced we were ever supposed to worry about it. I don’t think Paul went around preaching the 10 Commandments and the meaning of the book of Daniel to the Gentiles. He was preaching the salvation of Jesus — what I think of as the “Law of Love.”

Hundreds of years ago, people didn’t have access to books. They had to listen to the word of God preached by priests, who had an investment in making people more afraid of their sin than the underlying lack of love, because this gave the church money and power. Thank goodness for an oral tradition that nevertheless revealed the truth of God.

Many Christians today have several translations of the Bible on their bookshelf. Why then, does the tale of Beauty and the Beast ring more true than the message one hears in many Christian churches today?

I have much, much more to write about this subject. Dreams, supernatural experiences, friendships — all of this is coming together to form one cohesive story of love and freedom in my life.

And Unto Us, a Savior Is Born — Really!

Note: This post is not cheery.  It was either write the truth or not write at all.

Having a savior feels different than it used to.

The word “savior” just used to sound like any other word. Jesus our savior. Born in a manger. Sheep and donkeys came to mind.

nativity

I’ve known the reality of having a savior for a couple of years now, but perhaps never more than this Christmas.

My older son, my sweet boy who took off into the depths of LSD and never desired to fully resurface, well, a few days ago he changed his email address to an auto-forwarded message that sounds an awful lot like a suicide note. He’s somewhere in Guatemala. He was waiting for a cosmic change on the 21st. It was no joke to him. No one has heard from him.

Maybe my son is dead. I don’t know.

My younger son is getting inpatient treatment for a stigma-producing condition. It’s the kind of thing where people don’t send flowers, offer much support or even really want to talk to you much at all. We are in Shreveport this holiday season because that’s where the hospital is. Christmas will be the same as every other day this past week — getting into an overcrowded elevator and visiting him from 5:30 to 6:30.

It would be so easy to fall into the trap of self-pity. It would be easy to completely fall apart, actually.

But in one respect Christmas is not at all the same as any other day. It’s the day we celebrate that we have a savior. A SAVIOR.

This means the world to me, now that I know what it means.

My merciful savior stands between me and hopelessness. He grabs the demons of despair by their necks and casts them away from me. He is good he is love he is everything to me.

I tried to cover up my pain by shopping. However, the world’s solutions don’t work. I have maxed out my credit cards and now despise the mere sight of another sweater marked 50 percent off. The only cure for pain is turning to our savior. The pain doesn’t necessarily go away, but it sure as heck becomes easier to carry. Here’s why:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

He arrived!! They worshiped him! He saved us! He saved us.

My savior. I love you.