“Patience serves as a protection against wrongs as clothes do against cold. For if you put on more clothes as the cold increases, it will have no power to hurt you. So in like manner you must grow in patience when you meet with great wrongs, and they will then be powerless to vex your mind.”
I always wondered about faith. Evangelicals say that you have to choose to have it. Calvinists say that you are predestined to either have it or not. It’s a free gift that you cannot earn. But you have to nurture and hang onto it. Catholics and Orthodox Christians practice it with rituals. So many contradictory ideas.
What I have learned is that faith is the little voice that pops up when you are discouraged or even despairing and points you back to God. It tells you something true. sometimes what is true is not what you want to hear. But it’s true and you can choose to embrace it and continue walking by faith or you can reject it and try to find your own way forward. When times are hard, you have to really listen for it. You have to really hold onto what you hear. Because soon enough something will come and wash that little piece of comfort away.
Why do I say that these words and their amazing power to sustain us are faith? Scriptures describe Jesus as the author and perfector of our faith. Jesus is the Word made flesh. In the beginning there was the word and the word was God and the word was with God. Listen and you will hear words pointing you back to God.
A couple of months ago, I read in a devotional: “who told you that winter will never end and spring will never come again?” And regularly when I have been ready to consign myself to a life of permanent misery, those words: “who told you that winter will never end and spring will never come again?” would drift into my mind. And I had a choice. I could believe these words pointing me back towards God or would I continue embracing the darkness. The darkness seems so reasonable and safe. It’s real. I can think of 100 reasons to just let go of what I have put my faith in until now and give myself up to misery and call it my fate. But every time I am quiet, every time I cannot hold onto being miserable anymore, the words of faith keep coming back.
For years I heard them, read them, sang them, prayed them, studied them – these words that are truth pointing me back to truth. And now, they come back to me. They are songs running through my head when I wake up in the morning. They are words I have planted in my children repeated in their own voices for their own reasons. They are the words that come to the surface every time I pause my recital of the litany of reasons I just cannot and will not continue. And consistently they point me back to God when hitchhiking to Vegas starts to seem like my only hope for survival.
This is how faith works: what you allow in, will come back to you when you need it. It’s not magic; it’s a free gift we all have thanks to these amazing brains we have been given. Our brains will take the smallest good thing we give it and when we most need it, spit it back out at us. I cannot tell you how often when I have been quiet and just listened, something so tiny, so seemingly insignificant will come to mind and that’s just the little boost I need for the moment.
This is God teaching me to see and be nourished by even the tiniest things and the smallest drops of water so that I can survive in a desert place. This is Jesus authoring the words which point me in the direction I need to go on the path that leads to God. Faith is a tiny mustard seed sprouting and pointing towards the sun, however dim and distant it may be. Go that way. Towards the son. There’s love there. S o you hope that God is as good as he says he is and hold onto the light for as long as you can, letting it strengthen you to endure the darkness from the next wave threatening to rip this little bit of comfort away. And somehow, it’s always enough.
*First published 12/2011
In the bible, a prophet doesn’t predict the far-off future. Instead, their gift is an ability to see and explain the reality of what they see happening all around them. These are the people who have heard the voices of those who are being silenced. They see through the agreed upon lies and narratives for why things are the way they are. They are able to look at their present with spiritual eyes and recognize what others are blind to. Further, they understand God and his ways well enough to easily see where it’s all heading.
Which is not to say that they have nothing at all to say about the future. The ancient Hebrews viewed time as circular. What has happened before, will happened again. When a prophet shares a vision, it is a symbolic description of what they see happening in the spiritual realm. It’s purpose is to illuminate of the archetypal patterns at work in their world. That way, when a time cycles back and a time such as the prophet’s comes around again, we might better understand the spiritual reality of what we are seeing.
This is why bible prophecies which clearly refer to a specific person or set of events in the past continue to inform us about what we see going on around us today. For example, the whore of Babylon in Revelation obviously refers to the Roman Empire. And also bears a striking resemblance to the corrupt Roman Catholic Church of the late middle ages. And is arguably a good illustration of a certain super power at work in the world today. It’s an archetype of empire at work in the world. So long as empires which rely on violence, greed, fear, idolatry and control continue to arise, the whore of Babylon will also continue to arise.
Of course, the prophets didn’t leave these odd descriptions behind just for entertainment and speculation. The intention, I believe, is two fold. First, as I said, the hope is that when a time such as theirs comes around again, we will recognize what is happening. And second, when we see it happening and we are properly equipped, we will be able to align ourselves with God in order to interrupt the cycle once and for all.
According to Revelation, when that happens, the age of the new heaven and new earth will begin. The “ages of the ages*” as the bible puts it. Remember, the prophet both sees what is happening and, because of their relationship with God, is able to understand how God will act going forward.
From the post Let’s Talk Prophecy and The End Times.
OK, I just want to say at the outset that what I am about to say is not in anyway meant to insult Jesus. I would swear it to you, but Jesus says not to swear on anything. But you should know that that’s how much I mean it when I say that I’m not insulting Jesus. So don’t go taking this all the wrong way . . . But . . .
Did you know that pretty much everything Jesus said could totally come out the mouth of the sort of drunken, bitter man who yells at people at the bar?* Before you get mad, just stop and think of something Jesus said that you can remember off the top of your head. Go ahead. Do it. Think of something else he said. It’s true, isn’t it? I mean, I haven’t done an intense reading of the gospels with this idea in mind, but I’m still pretty sure this is a thing.
Now, I’m not at all saying that Jesus was a drunken bitter man who yelled at people at bars. But isn’t it interesting that you could put the entire Sermon on the Mount into the mouth of some drunk, embittered wise man in a bar and it would totally be believable. You couldn’t put those words in the mouth of Herod or a congressman and get anyone to believe they meant it.
Or maybe Jesus was a bit of a comedian. Maybe he said, “blessed are the poor” and the crowd roared with laughter.
Maybe he was a specialist in the absurd. He could tell stories about a woman throwing a party because she found her coin and people would laugh knowingly at the irony of it.
In my head and in the movies and at church, Jesus words are always spoken in a flat, peaceful sort of way with an edge of what was suppose to be authority. But that’s not how people speak. And Jesus was a real, live people. But we’ve lost the tone. The words go flat and lose their power. We hear words of revolution and comfort and bitterness and humor and they all come out just the same. We can rely on scholars to help us tell one from the other.
But what we really need to do, I suspect, is to imagine the words coming out of a drunk guy. Or a smart ass. Or a person smiling as they die.
Imagine that Jesus’ words were your words. Could you really say with conviction that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be satisfied without being bitter or angry or mocking?
When you give Jesus’ words personality, you start to discover that after all this time, they still have power after all. They bring you up short with the power of “I never saw it like that before”. They take you to a place where you could understand why the drunk man is so bitter and why the people laugh and encourage him to keep sharing his thoughts. For entertainment if nothing else.
It starts to dawn on you that Jesus couldn’t just say these things without understanding at a deep level what they mean. Because they aren’t easy things to say honestly when you’re not drunk or bitter or cynical or asleep or laughing. But Jesus said them and meant them.
In fact, it turns out that after 2000 years, his words can still change a person and how they see the world. Or at least that’s how it’s been for me. Maybe you’re too hung up on me conflating Jesus with an angry drunk guy to find out for yourself. ;)
*I did not come up with this pseudo-blasphemous idea of Jesus as a bitter drunk guy, btw. Someone else pointed it out to me but I can’t remember who for the life of me. But they were right – it does work!
I hate New Year’s resolutions. Hate them. The worst New Year’s days for me were always the ones when my husband would pull out a piece of paper and write “Trotter Family Resolutions” across the top. So we could “pull them out at the end of the year and see how we did”. Great, another completely unrealistic standard to feel bad about not meeting. Just what I need!
The other day I read an article which advised that the key to keeping this year’s resolutions was to set up specific targets. Like “I will exercise 3 times a week and lose 25 lbs by April 1.” Ahahahahahahahahahahahaha! Seriously. That’s what it said. Like the two are related.
Let me tell you how this really works. I’m not thin. But I do have standards: my belly must not poke out past my boobs. Having and nursing 5 kids has given me some wiggle room to work with, but a couple of years ago, the belly was threatening to overtake the girls upstairs so I decided it was time to get serious about hitting the gym. I worked out 4-5 times a week for an hour. Heavy, sweating, gasping for air aerobic sessions. Nothing. 2 months in I think I had lost 0″ and 3 lbs. That’s a lot of sweating for no results. So I did the obvious; I bought a nice push-up bra. Problem solved! Now that’s a New Year’s resolution I can get behind: buy undergarments that will make me look thinner. Continue reading
Is salvation really about avoiding hell when you die? Yes, that’s the popular teaching we’ve all heard, but in this video I explain why this is a misunderstanding and what the truth of salvation actually is. (Hint – it’s better than you’ve been told!) Enjoy!
Here’s the link for those of you reading via email. See – I do catch on eventually! ;)
Instead of doing my Christmas shopping, I made this for y’all. Grab a cuppa whatever suits you best and listen to the dulcet sound of my voice sharing a heartwarming Christmas story about a farmer, a bird and a little boy. It will be the best 11 minutes of your day. :)
Once upon a time, a dastardly villian took a girl out to sea and left her there in the water, in the dark. She knew she was in a struggle for her life. Although it was night and she could see nothing, she couldn’t tolerate just waiting. So she took off swimming in the direction she thought land was. She swam though the night until she was so exhausted that she could barely tread water. As the sun rose, she thought she could see land in the distance, but now that her energy was spent, her survival depended on staying afloat until someone happened to spot her and rescue her.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Once upon a time a dastardly villian took a girl out to sea and left her there in the water, in the dark. She knew she was in a struggle for her life. But it was night and she could see nothing to guide her way. So she decided to just tread water until morning came up. As the sun came up, she was tired, but not spent. She spotted land in the distance and started swimming in that direction. Her survival now depended on whether she had the stamina to swim close enough to shore to be spotted by a rescuer or pull herself onshore.
This is one of the essays found in my book The Upside Down World’s Guide to Enjoying the Hard Life. You should go order a copy before you forget!
Over the years I’ve forgiven some rather unforgivable things. I hope you have as well. . . Wait – that didn’t come out right. Hopefully you’re one of those rare birds who have never had anything particularly unforgivable happen to you. But if you have had someone do something unforgivable, I hope that you have been able to forgive them.*
One of the problems that people commonly struggle with when it comes to forgiveness is the issue of the restoration of relationships. Can you really say you’ve forgiven someone if you are unwilling to be in relationship with them? Does forgiveness demand that your relationship be restored? Or can you forgive but refuse to engage in relationship with the person who wronged you?
Part of why I am such a big fan of forgiveness is that it’s a very empowering act. I cannot often control the way other people behave towards me, but I can control how I respond to it. Forgiving allows me to take back my power from someone who has injected pain, suffering and turmoil into my life against my will. I get to declare in the heavenlies when a person is bound or loosed from their sins. And forgiveness also props opens the door to healing from harm done.
On the other hand, insisting that forgiveness must be accompanied by restoration of a relationship is just the opposite; it’s dis-empowering. It doesn’t allow for choice. It doesn’t allow for self-love or self-protection. It makes my own pain and struggle and needs completely irrelevant. And all too often, this insistence that forgiveness must go hand in hand with restoration of relationship is a tool of control which gets used against people who are already in a weak position.
Being in relationship with other people always opens us up to being hurt. And if we refuse relationship with anyone who is dysfunctional or hurtful, we will be lonely indeed. Most acts of forgiveness should not be accompanied by a reconsideration of the relationship as a whole. Generally, we ought to forgive and move on freely. But there are those times when what is being forgiven does call the entire relationship into question. So how can we maintain our default openness for relationship while also being realistic about which relationships are simply too dangerous, unhealthy or dysfunctional to continue? Continue reading