Rest…

We all need some rest...

We all need some rest…

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.
Matthew 11:28 (NLT)

Just for a moment’s rest. Just a moment to step back from the cares of this life. Sometimes it’s as if all the world’s burdens seem to crash down on your shoulders. People asking more and more from your less and less. Family and household responsibilities pull on you. Church obligations multiply like the proverbial rabbits where members pull on you for various reasons; and pastor asks for increased service. Your day job feels more like a marathon as you navigate through endless assignments, meetings, and projects…

And it never ends.  You feel as if you’re dragged about and your personal cup is “running over” with responsibilities.  You just want to step back a moment and rest.  Not so much go to sleep, but just to be able to just chill and detox all the stuff inside you.  Sometimes you got to step back and say “whoa.”

Without a time to rest, to pause, we can easily end up “weary in well doing.” We’ll find ourselves burning out, shutting down, and eventually tuning everything and everyone out-all of which can be quite dangerous. We hear all too often tales of clergy and minister burnout in the Church. Caregiver burnout or illnesses that develop while caring for another. Job stresses a common problem in the workplace. And we have family providers mentally and emotionally checking out on their families when they’re needed the most. All this complicated thanks to our multitasking spirit which pervades modern culture.

To rest is not laziness; on the contrary. Rest gives us the opportunity to recharge our batteries-spiritual, mental and physical. Rest also gives us the opportunity to detox ourselves from the accumulated spiritual “junk” we receive as spiritual beings.

Jesus provided rest for our souls; and we need that rest even more today. We can look to Jesus for rest, where we can unload and unwind. Jesus will also recharge our spirits for the journey ahead. This is not “escapism”as some would contend; it’s tapping into that Divine power that Jesus tapped into. Power that we can rest in-allowing ourselves to be empowered. Rest can be through physical rest, meditation, mindful physical activity, even worship can be a form of this rest.

Then empowered, we can face our responsibilities head on through Christ who strengthens us. For it’s in Christ we have rest for our souls.

Peace.

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Now What Are We Going to Do?

It’s interesting that we Americans never take the time to understand what happens in other parts of the world until what’s happening winds up in our backyards.

For months, the Ebola virus has been taking lives in West Africa.  Save for the group Doctors Without Borders, many have been slow on the response to the growing crisis.  Even the World Health Organization admitted its slow response.  President Obama ordered 3000 military personnel to West Africa (200 are there as of the beginning of this month).  And West African nations, already struggling with internal issues, now have to wrestle this microbe-sized monster that can wreak such death, illness and heartache.  For the most part, it was a West African problem.

Until this past week, when a Liberian man visited a Dallas (as in Texas, United States) hospital with an unwelcome traveling companion: the Ebola virus.  Now remember, we already had two Ebola cases here in the US; two relief workers contracted the disease.  However the two relief workers knew about their contracting the disease; were jetted here under controlled conditions; and were hospitalized at Emory in Atlanta under controlled conditions prepared for the disease.  However our Liberian friend walked into a public hospital and tested positive for Ebola post-facto.

Now it gets interesting.  People in Dallas are getting nervous.  Although no danger reported so far, there is that nagging question, “Could it spread?”  I can bet you a night on the town that people throughout this land of ours are wondering what if someone infected arrived in their town?  I’ll even bet you another night on the town that someone in Europe is starting to wonder what if….?

Now what are we going to do?  Are we going to seriously work with our West African fellows to contain Ebola before it spreads further; and to get first-hand experiential knowledge in dealing with the disease?  Are we going to realize that thanks to modern high-speed air-travel that diseases like Ebola can reach other parts of the globe in hours?  That one infected person can potentially infect others within a closed, pressurized space of an aircraft cabin which air they share for several hours?  And if said infected victims manage to pass our security checkpoints and get out into the public-especially urban areas like Dallas-what will we do then?

Will we finally realize that what happens “over there” today can happen over here tomorrow?

Now, what are we going to do?

Peace.

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Such A Time As This

 

For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?  Esther 4:14 (KJV)

This is the time, and we are the people.  Today, more than ever, we need prophetic voices to cry out.  To cry out for deliverance from he ills that are destroying us as a people.

Recently, we saw people come out en masse in New York City to take a stand for the environment during the United Nations Climate Summit, people are protesting the rash of acts of police brutality, there is a standup against domestic and sexual abuse…people are standing up.

It’s high time those of us in the Boardinghouse of Faith do likewise.  God calls for us to stand up for the victims of evil.  To stand up for our one and only home: Earth.  To stand up for the victims-dead and alive-of police brutality.  To stand up against domestic abuse and sexual assault.  We’re called to be the “voice that crieth in the wilderness”, whether it’s from the pulpit or the pew.  And for a time as such, we need to get to work.  We don’t have time to dither over trivialities like, “defense of marriage” and teaching Creationism in public schools.

The post’s text is taken from the Book of Esther.  Esther’s older cousin, Mordecai found out about Haman’s plan to exterminate the Jews living in Persia (present day Iran), two of which were Mordecai and Esther.  Esther, who was made queen by the king, Ahasuerus, was asked by Mordecai to intercede with Ahasuerus on the Jews behalf.  At first, Esther balked at the plan.  Mordecai-not taking no for an answer-dropped the above statement on Cuz, warning that deliverance could come from elsewhere but at the cost of her and her people’s demise; and that who’s to say that Esther wasn’t where she was for such a time as she and Mordecai were in.

The same with the Church-the Boardinghouse of Faith-today. Who’s not to say that God has placed us in this time to be the voice I spoke about earlier?  Are we going to accept what I believe is God’s challenge to us to speak up?  Or will we just “pray about it” and get back to more “important” issues like “marriage defense” and Creationism?  And if we reject such a challenge, who’s to say God may not rise up “deliverance” from outside the Church?  Who’s to say He/She may not call on “non-Christians” to do the work.  And then in the end, we silent Christians may find ourselves “destroyed” as in becoming an anachronism that will slowly fade into history’s sunset.

As I said in the beginning, this is the time and we are the people.  What are we going to do for such a time as this?

Peace.

(Above image:  On August 28th, more than 30 people gathered in Times Square to promote the People’s Climate March with illuminated signs. Photo courtesy of NYC Light Brigade, 2014 – See more at: http://tcktcktck.org/2014/09/mass-mobilization-accompany-un-climate-summit/64512#sthash.MVWj1EOW.dpuf)

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You Don’t Know My Name

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?

And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.  Matthew 7:21-23 (KJV)

Note: Thanks  to pianist and songstress Alicia Keys for the inspiration for the title.

One of my favorite Alicia Keys songs was the one that shares its title with this post. Here, Alicia sang about her frustration in getting to know a young man who apparently is oblivious to her.

Today’s Fundagelical Christians are pretty much the same lot. If Jesus was here right now, he would say the same thing.  I’ve learned over my 50+ years that Christianity (its evangelical variant) is a religion about Jesus; not following the teachings of Jesus.  Many parade their faith in front of everyone else-especially on Facebook-instead of living it. To paraphrase 2Live Crew, they walk around saying, “Me so holy” as if the world’s going to applaud them.  They talk about protecting marriage, bringing God back into (fill in the blank), running a democracy on the Ten Commandments, “family values,” and a whole host of other stuff.

However, ask one of these people about feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, referring the homeless to a warm and dry bed, protesting injustices at every level, watching our for our children, etc, and you’ll probably be greeted with silence.  These are “busy” (busybody’s more like it) Christians that are flitting about like caffeine-stoked butterflies going from place to place talking about their “relationship” with Jesus.  Yet these same folk are not doing the work of Jesus mentioned in the beginning of this paragraph.  Like I said, they have a religion about Jesus, who’s nothing more than a name to drop and a supposed after-life insurance policy.

This is sad, because these people never took the time to know Jesus.  How?  By studying his words: what did the man really say?  What are the “hidden things” he told his disciples about the Kingdom/Queendom of God, which-according to said Jesus-is inside us?  Why dis he do what he did, risking everything including his life?  The longer I live, the more I’m convinced that Fundagelical Christians are like the man in Alicia’s song: they don’t know Jesus’ name.

What is Jesus’ name?  Glad you asked!  Jesus is a variant of Yeshua (his Jewish name), which mean “God is salvation” in Hebrew.  Now if we look at Jesus, he was the prototype of the life that God saves.  Saves from what?  Saves us from our (unhealthy) ego-driven lives: certainty; security; religiosity; concern with material rather than spiritual things; hatred; intolerance; and other things that have us live on a lower realm.  Look at Jesus-a man who was infused with God, who was free of all the shit that we carry around and yet was still human.  And that same “salvation” is offered to us today by looking to God (who is in us) and discovering who and what we truly are “in Christ”.  However, we don’t want to: we’re comfortable with a God “out there” based on what the Bible says while doing busy “church work.”

In the end, many of the Fundagelicals are going to run into Jesus and will be in for a spiritual “shock” when they realize that they never took the time to know him.  They will find themselves isolated and separated from him in their lives.  They’ll be the ones in churches still “seeking” God, and thinking that just “having faith” is going to help them.  They’ll be the ones busy “doing good.”  And they’ll be asking Jesus, “Lord didn’t we (fill in the blank) in your name?” And Jesus-like Alicia Keys-will say to them:

You don’t know my name…

Peace.

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Until WE Change…

PHOTO: In this May 23, 2014, file photo, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, right, speaks alongside his wife, Janay, during a news conference at the teams practice facility in Owings Mills, Md.

PHOTO: In this May 23, 2014, file photo, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, right, speaks alongside his wife, Janay, during a news conference at the teams practice facility in Owings Mills, Md. (Photo by Patrick Semansky/AP). Image from abcnews.com

As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly.  Proverbs 26:11 (KJV)

The media is abuzz with the Ray Rice story.  Unless you were under a rock during the last week or so, what happened was that Baltimore Ravens running back, Ray Rice was caught on videotape beating on his then fiancee, Janay Rice in an Atlantic City elevator back in February.  Since that revelation hit the airwaves, the Ravens cancelled Rice’s contract.  I’ve seen clips of the video myself on the news and find it disturbing.

However outraged people may be, there are those who still defend Rice and his actions.  One is Janay Rice herself.  The other is boxing champion Floyd Mayweather.  Plus, it’s came to light that the NFL knew about this video before we saw it for ourselves.  Plus, there are still women who will probably defend Rice; and will watch the game.

Don’t get me wrong-I do love some football.  However I see a bigger issue at hand.  Many of us in the US of A have turned sports celebrities like Rice into almost “gods”-especially in football.  Rice was not the first NFL player accused of domestic violence, or any major criminal infraction.  For years, we’ve condoned such behavior-especially if the player was a star player.  We didn’t mind our sports leagues giving our stars a suspension-just as long as it wasn’t forever and our star can get back to playing and entertaining us.  And when such players were fattening the NFL-and owners’-bottom line, no one gave a damn.

This stems from the age-old culture of violence that pervades this nation.  We have devolved from “Make Love, Not War” to “Make War, Not Love.”  If you watch an NFL game, you see it open with the singing of the National Anthem in tribute to our military serving fighting overseas.  Plus, we tack on the Fundaglical (Fundamentalist Evangelical) element to the game (players “thanking God” for a touchdown and the endless “John 3:16″ placards).  This same idiocy has metastasized into our overall culture to the point that we don’t give a damn about what Rice did anymore.

Until we as a culture change and bring a more peaceful and holy attitude back to the table, this violent shit like what Ray Rice did will not change.  Until we change and embrace, “Make Love, Not War” we will still embrace violence in all its forms.  Until we change and stop deifying these athletes-even tacking Fundagelical X-tianity to them, we’ll still have more of this.  Until we change. stop “supporting our troops” as killers, and instead support them as people who need to have a quality of life upon returning home; we’ll still support whatever violence done overseas.

Tomorrow will be the 11th Anniversary of the “9/11″ terrorist attacks here in America.  We’ll have our “never forget” signs, our memorials, our tributes, etc.  However, we need to understand that it’s our culture of violence here in America-and abroad-that ultimately produced the backlash that brought about September 11, 2001.  And despite that dark time in our history, we Americans have not changed.  And like Fido in tonight’s Scripture text, we keep going back to the vomit, the folly, of violence; with no change in sight.

Until WE change, nothing will change.  We’ll have more Ray Rice’s who we’ll forgive-and forget-as we let them entertain us on the field.

Peace.

 

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Swimming Into Deep Waters

He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.  Matthew 13:11 (KJV)

My son, Carrington completed another summer at day camp.  One of his favorite activities is swimming at the pool.  Carrington would “regale” us with his exploits about swimming into the deep end sans life jacket.  If so, this little guy beat me by a few years before I myself ventured into a pool’s deep end.  However, once I started swimming in the deep end I was there all the time. 

I’m started to venture into other deep waters myself these days.  I’ve been interested in the esoteric meaning of Scripture.  For a long time I’ve felt that the Bible was saying more than what I’ve learned during my Christian roadtrip. I’ve also studied various sites and a couple of books that there are two types of Christianity. 

The first type is the exoteric where Scripture is taken literally and is considered history.  Stories like the Creation, Flood, Exodus, Virgin Birth are all considered real events.  This is the kind of Christianity prevalent in the Christian world; your typical “Sunday morning” variant. 

The second variant that I’ve mentioned earlier is the esoteric.  Here, Scripture is figurative and has a hidden meaning that can be discovered if one is willing to take the time.  The stories in the Bible are all internal events that happen to us-symbols of our internal states; not so much actual history.  In fact, the argument for esoteric Christianity could be found in Scripture itself; the texts in this post are examples.

Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.  1 Corinthians 4:1 (KJV)

Esoteric Christianity is also seen in Gnostic Christianity, which has given the Church in general fits for centuries. I sometimes wonder if the esoteric variant was the first true Christianity which was later squashed into almost non-existence by the institutionalized Church called “Christianity” founded by Constantine the Great in the 4th Century CE.

I don’t know where my swimming will take me.  However, I’m confident that I won’t drown.  I think I may discover a whole new shore when I’m said and done.

Peace!

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Crossing a Fine Line and Heading Down a Slippery Slope

Image above: Scott Olson via Getty Images (Courtesy of The Huffington Post)

Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.
Matthew 26:52 (King James Version)

As we watch the news of continued protests in Ferguson, MO in the wake of the death of (unarmed) 18-year old Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer, we see a disturbing trend taking place.

For years, we’ve seen the deaths of unarmed Black (and other minority) male youth at the hands of law enforcement (and a few private citizens), or other forms of police brutality.  And only now, Whites are beginning to feel the sting of the same-especially in the wake of the above events; and the recent #Occupy events.  More and more, our police officers-sworn to serve and protect the public-have been doing almost the opposite.  And this is sad, because there are many good police officers who do their best to serve the public trust.

However today we see a number of our police acting with impunity against anyone who they feel is a problem: minorities; GLBTQs; artists; innocent unarmed protesters, the mentally ill; and even harmless homeless folk.  Today, we see complaints of abuse of power by these officers, which many times seem to fall on deaf ears in police departments all over the land.  We see activist groups giving tips on what to do if stopped by the police; the ACLU even has an app to record police action on your smartphone.

And to add fuel to the fire, we seeing a growing militarization of our police forces.  When I was coming up, you had SWAT (Special Weapons And Tactics) officers, however they were for special high-risk situations like hostage takings.  However, we now see our police with body armor, helmets, assault weapons that rival a small army, even armored vehicles.  What’s up with that?  Is our police becoming afraid of the public?  Is the police afraid of the next riot?  Even military veterans have criticized this militarization.

When I think on the above, I think how these cops have crossed the fine line between “to serve and protect” and “to terrorize and arrest.”  We see how some have literally gotten away with murder; and how a police officer was acquitted after brutalizing a mentally ill person.  These officers have allowed power to get to them and have traded their consciences for cowardice disguised as “control.”

And once the above fine line is crossed, these people start heading down a slippery slope-a slope leading to their eventual downfall.  You see in tonight’s Scripture, Jesus was being arrested (of all things).  At that time, Peter took a sword and sliced off one of the arresting party’s ears.  Jesus warned Peter that one who lives by the sword (or violence) will die in like manner.  This is something many of these law enforcement people don’t realize: violence begets violence.  No matter how much protection these cops have-either from the courts or equipment-they cannot escape that Divine Karma that awaits them.

I hope and pray that justice comes for Michael Brown’s family; and a peaceful resolution to the events in Ferguson.  However for any police officer who crosses the line, becomes a militarized terrorist on the public dime, and starts down the slippery slope to his/her own downfall?  All I can say is “God help you” (if He/She does).

Peace (and justice) for all.

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