WWJD?

I want to admit something to you.  Maybe this won’t shock many of my friends, but in the last year I’ve had trouble reconciling my Christian faith with the love of Christ.  Well, that isn’t exactly right.  I’ve been having trouble reconciling my Christian faith with many (but not all)  CHRISTIANS, and because of that, I’ve distanced myself from Christians in many ways.  I usually refer to myself as “a follower of Christ” instead of a Christian……maybe that’s not fair.  Maybe it is not kind that I don’t want to be pulled in with what I perceive as a group of (usually American) people who spend most of their time condemning others, closing church doors to people, and otherwise seem to focus on rules and regulations instead of “loving others….including your enemies”.  I’ve written on this blog about many of the ways the American Christian Church has acted toward me as a lesbian, or towards “other” including people of color, non-Evangelicals, progressive Christians, or anyone that doesn’t fit into the little box of Evangelical Christians as defined by many in this country.

But, I have to admit as well, that I have missed the ever-present discussions of how amazing Christ really is.  I have missed ongoing discussions of the Power that Christ represents to me, and even the worship that feeds my soul more than I can express in words.  I have missed that fellowship.  Not that I have left anything – believe me, I fellowship with Christ often and am blessed EVERY DAY by His love.  No, I am not referring to Jesus……I am referring to the human fellowship of the Church, the ones who too often seem to rather say to me that I am going to hell or am somehow deficient in too many ways to TRULY be a follower of Christ.

Yes, I hear often that I CAN’T be a Christian, because of many reasons.

And yet, He has not forsaken me.  He has not stopped loving me, at all.  He is present in so many ways that even if I TRIED to put distance between us, I would fail.  I have been grafted into His life, and no one can change that.

So, as I sit as a lesbian on my new porch, smoking a cigar and listening to the evening songs the birds are singing to me…….drinking water and considering the rich blessings that He has provided for me…….I came across this on Facebook:

WWJD?
What DID Jesus do?
1. He openly questioned the religion of his upbringing.
2. He quoted scripture from his ” Bible” said it was wrong and did otherwise.
3. He encouraged others to move beyond the commandments in scripture to follow their heart.
4. He openly embraced people his ” Bible” forbade him to associate with and he was NOT trying to convert them to his religion.
5. He never asked to be worshiped and did not start a new religion.
6. He did not believe scriptures were the “Word of God.” (He clearly called them “The word of Moses.”)
7. He was shut out, shunned and eventually killed by religious leaders.
8. He never asked anyone to pray a “sinner’s prayer” or to ask him into their heart.
9. He rarely attended religious gatherings and, when he did, it was often to denounce their practices.
10. He put “meeting human need” over any kind of religious activities or exercises.
Maybe you SHOULD follow Jesus after all!
Robert Rutherford

This might sound weird to you, Christian who has not been struggling with religion being used as a club against other humans, but the above restored some hope in me.  It reminded me of the beauty that first pierced my heart when I was 16 years old and KNEW that the Love and Grace of Christ wanted my held safely in His arms.  It restored my hope of being loved, period.  It challenged me to walk in the Truth that I am a King’s Kid, saved beyond any indictment or conviction.  That I did nothing to receive this amazing gift, but also that no human could tell me I am not protected.  I have once again been challenged to look at every human – yes, even those who spew hate at me and mine – as also King’s Kid, even if they’ve not professed their acceptance of the King.  I recall that I am to love even the most vile person, as Christ did, though am so tempted to call out the self-proclaimed “religious elite” as a den of wipers as Jesus did.  I have been challenged to truly try to emulate Christ and look at each person as someone of value, even if we have very different world views or even religious beliefs.

Because, that is what Jesus would do.

 

Firsts

Life is filled with “firsts”.  First laughs, first steps, first time driving, first kisses.  So many momentous occasions that we often look back on with smiles and warm feelings.  I remember clearly the day Kirstie was born 26 years ago – my first day as a mom – as the feelings were so fantastic and amazing.  I am sure you have a list of “firsts” as well and understand what I am describing.

But there are other kinds of firsts, too.  Your first speeding ticket.  Your first broken bone.  The first death in the family.  Your first heartbreak.  These events aren’t as sought after and do not bring the cozy feelings we often like to sit through as if a great movie has shown up on the TV.  No, these sort of memories are the ones that definitely impact our lives, but we don’t embrace them when they come to mind.

2016 presented itself with a few firsts I’d rather have avoided – I was attacked for being gay for the first time this year.  That truly sucked and changed a lot about me, though I am working through that.  What really hit me harder than I expected, though, was going through my birthday, Christmas, and the New Year for the first time with my mom not being on this earth.  I have not lived in the same state as my mom since December 2009, so it’s not like I had recently SPENT those events with her.  Even so, not being able to call her or hear her voice……to hear her say, “when am I going to see you again?” (as she always asked that), and to tell her I love her hit me pretty hard.  And, for some reason the pain and the loss I felt surprised me.  And that was a first of sorts as well.  Perhaps it was exacerbated by the fact my older kids were not with me for Christmas this year for the first time as well, which magnified my sense of loss.  But it was hard, across the board.

I am not sharing this to complain or fish for “poor Gina” comments.  I guess I wanted to share that sometimes life is hard……even when we think we have things under control.  And, well, it’s okay that it gets hard.  It’s okay that we sometimes feel punched in the gut and we had no idea to even prepare for it, and it is no measurement of our strength (or lack thereof) when this happens.  There is no deficiency in our faith or belief in heaven when we miss those that are no longer near us.  And finally, that sense of loss and pain is not permanent, even in the case of my mom.  I was able to see my older kids the week after Christmas, and I am surrounded by my mom’s paintings and tons of memories.  I was also in California recently and spent some time with my brother David, and he gave me one of my mom’s favorite rings that he found as well as the Bible that Edgar and I had given her on her 52nd birthday.  THAT surprised me, given that I am almost that age myself!  Ha.  So, really, this post is to acknowledge that we have highs and lows…….to acknowledge and feel both…….but to step up and move to the next segment.  I didn’t say that well, but hope you get the drift.

Happy New Year, and may 2017 be filled with more highs than lows, but know you are loved through them all!

A Voice

Differences exist, everywhere.  I personally have this weird aversion to tomatoes; it’s not that I dislike them, it’s more that I don’t like them mixed with certain things…..and those things are usually where tomatoes are usually found.  Burgers, salads, sandwiches.  So, I will often say “no tomatoes”, though many in my family and throughout the world may look at me and think, “Gina, you’re crazy.”  Conversely, I LOVE garlic.  I could add garlic to almost anything; eggs, meat, pasta, burgers……literally, almost everything.  So many would prefer that I not eat it, and even if they like garlic, would not use it as often as I would like to do.

Who is right?

And that’s the thing……differences have existed since the dawn of mankind.  They manifest themselves in so many ways; preferences, religion, clothing, politics, entertainment, sexual attractions (and no, I am not just referring to homo or heterosexual realms – but to what we are attracted to).  Some like to live in busy, loud cities where “the action is”, while others would instead find joy in the quiet and slower paced “country”.  Some would rather spend their money helping others while others would invest in corporations that are developing new technologies.  Some listen to gangster rap and enjoy it while others think real music is found in the nuances of classical music.

Who is right?

You may be thinking at this very moment, “why does someone need to be right?  That’s just silly!”  And that’s my initial point – we too often work from a place of correctness.  We seem to, more often than usual nowadays, want to or feel like OUR way is the “right” way. Oh, that’s not new – especially in the realm of religion and politics – by any means.  But it sure seems like social media or rhetoric or just our very hearts have taken this phenomenon and made it SO……MUCH……BIGGER!

So, having said that, now my voice comes in.  In my estimation, beliefs and preferences and backgrounds don’t define our value or establish “what is right”.  Voting for Hillary or Trump doesn’t make someone right or wrong.  Being a Christian or a Muslim doesn’t make someone right or wrong.  Burning a flag, not burning a flag, peacefully protesting on the streets or kneeling during the National Anthem doesn’t make someone right just as  always standing and never protesting doesn’t.  Owning a gun legally or despising firearms doesn’t make someone right or wrong.  Only marrying someone in your religion/race or marrying outside of them does not make someone right or wrong.  All of these make us HUMANS with our morals and backgrounds and world views and preferences, and none of them break any laws.  Yet, especially today, it seems many of the loudest voices use these areas as the foundation for their measurement of “being right”, and all I see coming out of that is division, animosity, and arguments.  All when “right” remains nebulous at best.

I could elaborate on recent personal situations in my life where family, friends, and coworkers, in any of the above topics, have used their voice to imply my position or views were wrong.  I could even elaborate where I took the stance that my view was actually right, exposing THEIR error.  And there have been several instances where I chose not to react at all and let the interactions wash past me, only to realize that the resentment and hurt has stayed behind and festered deep within me.  Some of these exchanges were very deliberate – kind of “in your face”, as it were – and some started from a place of innocence that I truly believe were not meant to be offensive or abrasive.  In every case, it was clear that it was “me against them” or the focus was exclusively on establishing who was right.  Too often the root or measuring point was on the “winner”, and too often the interchanges left no room for listening, empathy, finding a shared middle ground – but instead worked towards finding the next zinger that incapacitated the other with their next arguments.

So, who really wins?

I assert, no one.  I am NOT talking about standing up for someone being harassed or attacked.  I am NOT talking about voicing concerns for injustices.  I am NOT talking about standing up for human or constitutional rights that may be in danger.  I am referring to interactions surrounding views/beliefs/”what is right”.

So, with that I challenge my 2.78 readers to step back and consider – what do you hope to accomplish in this realm?  Will your actions build relations?  Have you listened more than you have spoken?  Have you looked at the person you’re interacting with and seen their humanity more than your perceived opinion of them based on their views?  Perhaps we all could try more in this area…….

Further, I admit my background is Christian.  And due to that, I am reminded what Christ taught as recorded in the Bible.  It is not to win by any means.  It is not to annihilate my opponent and then scream out in victory afterward, “we tore that/them down!”.  No, instead He and His Apostles taught these concepts in the Bible:

To love our enemies and not feel justified to annihilate ANYONE based on their stances.  ENEMIES.  Matt 5:44-48

That perceptions or opinions, especially in the realm of social areas or in religious context and beliefs, are wrong to use to define who or how we interact with others.  Matt 9:9-13, Luke 15:1-7, 1 For 9:19-23

No race or religion has more worth or rights than others, but should receive the best from each of us as Christ gave His best.  John 4:5-54

And with that, I will say Au Revoir.  Peace.

 

 

 

 

 

It’s All in the Name

I am excited to announce that my blog, which I’ve been rambling in since 2005, has a new URL!  I feel like this little blog has finally grown up!  JustRambling.blog is the official link and that got me to thinking…….how important is a URL or even a name?

I go by many names, actually.  Gina is one of them, of course.  G, Sis, Mom, Maddy, Babe…..Spouse, Wife, Daughter, American, and a few more.  My mom used to call me Sam when I was little.  All of these evoke positive feelings and memories for me, and reinforce my position on this earth and my right to fill this space.  They affirm my existence and make me want to walk in the strength of who I am and to encourage those around me as I do so.

I’ve been called a few colorful names in my lifetime as well.  Jerk, Homo, Libtard, Abomination, Satan, Idiot, and others I won’t post here as I am trying to keep it PG-13 rated.  These names are not as fun, and usually don’t give me warm and fuzzy feelings as I recall the people or circumstances that voiced them.  These names make me sad, or mad, or ashamed.  I wonder sometimes if I focus on these names more deeply and more often than the positive ones, which makes me feel pretty gross.

Then, I think about the “Gina” I presented for so many years, the woman I thought my family, my church, and society wanted me to be.  That was a hard gig and, while I suppose many people were “happy”, I was lying to everyone including myself and carrying the burden of my lie and my very life like an anvil around my neck.

I am writing on the fly and just asked myself – so where are you going with this Gina?  This is getting pretty depressing.  Then I replied to myself, “this blog is called Just Rambling – go with it!”.  Which really is a strong indication that the 18 hours of PMP studying I’ve done today has taken its toll on my brain…….but I digress.

My point is this – we name ourselves or others name us things that can be positive or negative, but it doesn’t necessarily define us.  For example, my acknowledgement to myself and my family that I am a homosexual was a hugely honest and freeing moment for me (aka a positive), while someone screaming it at me as a slur is definitely a negative.  But the negative SITUATION doesn’t define me or turn the freeing truth into something bad.  And further, PERCEPTION of something doesn’t define our worth or call to fulfilling something bigger than ourselves.  We, as humans, seem to put a lot of stock in our names; we look for Job Titles and often think that gives us power, or add letters after our names to indicate our worth (like I will hopefully be adding “PMP” to my email signature soon!), or we lash out at our perceived enemies by calling them names to bring them down a notch or two.  And that’s just silly.

I believe God, for those who put faith in Him, knows our fixation on names and directs us differently.  While the names He is called in itself is lengthy and still does not quite capture His omnipotence and power, today I want to direct it to others in the Bible.

Abram, who was old and childless (a huge issue in his society), was renamed Abraham – “father of multitudes” – and the Bible says his line are as vast as the sand on the beach.  Sarai was also renamed Sarah – “mother of many nations”.  God saw and knew this even as Abram and Sarai decried their lack of children.

Jacob was renamed Israel – you know, the name that is now a country and home physically and spiritually for the Chosen People – and God proclaimed that he wrestled with God and men and prevailed.  How can you be overwhelmed with shame and lack of worth when you think about that?

No matter what anyone calls me, the truth is I am the King’s Kid.  Nothing can separate me from His love.  And that, my friends, is really all that matters.

 

It Takes A Word

Deana works for a large insurance company that makes billions each year.  They are “huge” and all that.  I have worked for a huge company before, and when I was employed there, we referred to customers as numbers and even referred to our coworkers as “FTEs”.  Day after day, financial report after report, I looked at these numbers and FTE references and lost a sense that they were PEOPLE.  I would expect Deana’s firm to act the same way, as they are even larger than the firm I worked for.  However, when they refer to the customers they serve, they say something like this (I totally made up the number for reference only):

“This month we added 12,254 souls to the account.”

SOULS.

“Soul” is defined as “the spiritual or immaterial part of a human being or animal, regarded as immortal.”  In religion, the soul is often the immaterial piece that we consider to live beyond our physical death.  This idea varies widely and has a vast history as described here, but for the purposes of this blog I will stick to the soul being the essence within us that exists after our physical body dies.  It is the piece of us that defines who we are, it fellowships with others on this earth as well as our Creator.  It is deep within us.

I have always been touched by Deana and her firm for referring to people such as myself as a “soul”.  To them, we are not just a number.  Not just a paycheck.  And that got me thinking – how different would MY day be if I decided to think about every person I interacted with as a soul?  What if I forced myself to say “hello Soul Bob” in my head before anything else?  What if I forced myself to acknowledge, yep……that dude that just flipped me off as he cut me off has a soul and, as such, should not be chased down for his egregious behavior.

It was a simple question that changed over two dozen interactions this week that would have otherwise not have ended as well.  And, perhaps that is sort of what Jesus meant when He told us to love our neighbors (and enemies) as ourselves.  Just as Jesus didn’t clarify this command by including “Christians only” or “those who are in our denomination”, or “those who live in our country”, perhaps we need to expand our nets beyond our own little spheres.  Then, maybe we will allow room for our souls to interact in purity with other souls we normally would not want to interact with……

That’s NOT to say that I don’t think consequences should occur or that we should be friends with everyone, but those are different topics for different days.

So, here are some outputs of this walk of mine with the concept of “soul”…..

Trump, no matter if anyone feels you make bad decisions, you purposely refuse to pay small businesses under the guise of non-conformity to contracts, you do not respect women, or do not deserve to be president, your soul is worthy of kindness and respect

Hillary, no matter if you are a liar, deserve to be convicted in numerous ways, actually caused the murder of 4 in Benghazi, or just want to kill babies, your soul is worthy of kindness and respect

Evangelical Christians, no matter that some feel you have directly or indirectly caused LGBT to kill themselves, that you have allowed your religion to turn your backs on your own children in “righteous love”, that you insist that Jesus is political, use the Bible as a sword of condemnation and exclusion, or rejoice that your opponents will “burn in hell”, you all have souls worthy of kindness and respect

Muslims, no matter that some believe your religion’s only focus is to terrorize and kill Americans, that you hate the One True God, your rape children, and you want to subjugate every woman in the world, you all have souls worthy of kindness and respect

Atheists, no matter that many believe you have an agenda to turn our children against us, that you are getting your slimy hands on every educational platform in this country, and you want to throw Christians in jail, you all have souls worthy of kindness and respect

LGBT people, no matter that most would say your propaganda is focused on stealing traditional marriage from us, that you’re promiscuous and abominations,  that you are steep in the filth of HIV and AIDS, seek out our children in bathrooms, try to convert our children in schools, and insist on buying wedding cakes, you all have souls worthy of kindness and respect

Black Lives, no matter that America says you need to calm down and show respect for authority, need to stop being in gangs in the inner cities, need to stop destroying your own cities in riots, probably should take less drugs, and probably should stop insisting that your lives are more important than ours, you all have souls worthy of kindness and respect

Blue Lives, no matter that many say many of you use your authority in ways that would be called a crime otherwise, that corruption is the norm in your agencies, and racism is a core value, you all have souls worthy of kindness and respect

Women, no matter that EVERYONE says you keep insisting that you need to be able to murder babies, that you are promiscuous and sluts and that’s the only reason why you insist on having access to birth control, and you expect to be treated like a man in pay and authority, you all have souls worthy of kindness and respect

Trump Supporters, no matter that you’re racists, ignorant, hateful, misinformed, rich worshipers and poor neglecters, you all have souls worthy of kindness and respect

Hillary Supporters, no matter that you all want to kill babies, you’re all satanists, you want to make Christianity illegal, you just want something for nothing, and you want to take away everyone’s guns, you all have souls worthy of kindness and respect

Gina, no matter that you used every negative stereotype you could think of to expose our own personal justifications for treating other people poorly, you have a soul worthy of kindness and respect

 

Perception

One of the definitions of “perception”, at least as noted in the Google dictionary, is “a way of regarding, understanding, or interpreting something; a mental impression.”

Perception can vary widely from person to person.  For example, one person might feel that waiting 1 minute and 39 seconds for popcorn to pop in the microwave is a miracle of technology, while another might feel as though the time spent waiting was nothing but a waste and that popcorn should not take that long to pop.  It’s all about perception.

If the Chicago Cubs swept the 2016 World Series in 4 games, Cub fans would say it might be the best World Series EVER!  But Indians fans would think it probably sucked big time.  It’s all about perception.

Over the years playing on youth sports teams, we often prayed before games and asked God to help us succeed in being victorious over our opponent.  We intuitively felt God was on our side and on our team.  Unbeknownst to us, the other team was doing the same thing and felt the same way.  It’s all about perception.  (And no, I don’t believe God was really going to help us…..at least right now that is my perception ha.)

I think you get what I am trying to say about perception.  We PERCEIVE things through our view; based on our upbringing, our locale, or religious beliefs, our emotions, our influences……so many things.  And those items often make us perceive things differently.  We hold our truths to be 100% accurate, though your neighbor’s truths may have a very different view.  Which one is right?

Do we base that on who wins the game, like I perceived during my youth sports matches?  Or as Cubs or Indians fans would?  What is the “real best time” to pop popcorn in the microwave?  How do we measure that?  Should we insist OUR perception is the measuring stick to defining things, or someone else’s?  Do we HAVE to assign “the best” perception, or do we acknowledge they vary and leave it at that?  Do we ignore all these questions and just say “let’s agree to disagree”?

I am not sure how to answer those questions.  I tend to feel that if we each acknowledge that our PERCEPTIONS impact how we see things and accept things, and acknowledge that other’s perceptions may vary (potentially by a BUNCH), we might all get along better.  But instead, many of us take our perceptions and try to dictate them as “the truth” and force our perceptions on others.  When others reject them, we treat them as outsiders/enemies/put negative adjective here.  When others agree with them, we group together and reinforce the idea that “our perception is truth”…..or really “we have the truth”.

Before you get all crazy, I am NOT talking about religious beliefs here, so RELAX.

How about I share a real life scenario about perception.  Many of my friends and neighbors believe in and recite the phase, “Make America Great Again!”  That goes in hand with supporting Donald Trump as President, but this blog post in not about Trump nor his campaign nor anything related to him EXCEPT this catch phrase.  I wanted to give Trump a fair shake and let his own words define his perception of “Make America Great Again!”, so I went to his campaign site (https://www.donaldjtrump.com)  to glean what that entails.  There are many things noted on the site that made total sense, including his plan on child care, education, and veteran affairs reform.  But see, already my perception is involved as there are many more listed that I excluded.  I will let you go to the site and check out how he intends to “make America Great Again!”.

One point taken from his “Immigration” Positions page, is the following:

Since 2013 alone, the Obama Administration has allowed 300,000 criminal aliens to return back into U.S. communities.

In essence, he will remove them from our communities and America will be great again!  I can’t say I dispute that, but I do have a different perception of that.

Earlier this year, I was attacked by a white male who happens to be in his 50’s.  He is a Trump supporter.  He does not like blacks nor homosexuals.  He thinks America is NOT great, because of blacks and homosexuals.  He believed me to be homosexual due to my Human Rights Campaign sticker on my car (they are an LGBT organization and in this case, his perception was 100% accurate ).  When I walked out of a public building, having used their restroom, he began to scream slurs at me related to my homosexuality, grabbed my neck, and threw me to the ground.  I sustained injuries to my face (lip, philtrum, and nose) and my knee due to the impact on the ground.  My iPhone was shattered, my sunglasses flew off of my face, and my keys flew out of my hand.  He continued his hate-filled screaming as I picked my face off the ground and remained on all fours, my mind going through a super slow but probably extremely fast panic as I wondered what I should do (should I ball up to avoid his kicks?  Should I run?  Do I flail my arms and legs?  Do I just try to punch and kick at whatever and hope it makes contact?  What if he has a weapon?  What if I die?).

My attacker is American.  He is also a convicted criminal, having been on parole for sexual assault.  Based on statements made to the police after his arrest, he truly felt I deserved the attack, and if they loved me at all they deserved to have their gay asses kicked, too.  He shared that the reason America was so screwed up was because of me (a damn homo) and blacks.  And that is why America needed to be great again.  It is not unreasonable to perceive, based on these comments, that he envisions an America with both groups removed.

Break – I UNDERSTAND that he does not represent all White Americans, Trump supporters, etc.  But he DOES represent a piece of society that so many of my friends are too scared to acknowledge.

You may expect me to share now that I think America needs to be made great because this man did such horrible things to me.  Or that I don’t think Trump should be focused on the MEXICAN or IMMIGRANT criminals in society, but rather the AMERICAN ones.  Maybe there is a hint of truth to that last sentence, but realistically and honestly I don’t want that.  No, more realistically I can and do accept that there are bad in EVERY country and EVERY race and EVERY community – that’s why those who break the law go to jail.  I don’t think we ever need to focus on one group but focus on the crime.  But I digress.

The truth is, MY perception is that America IS Great.  Despite this man who did horrible things to me FOR NO GOOD REASON other than his PERCEPTION, this world is filled with more that do NOT attack those who they do not like.  Most, no matter their social level, their bank account levels, even their citizenship…….would come to the aid of someone who is being attacked in broad daylight in front of a public facility.  Because, the day I was attacked, customers and employees of the public facility came to my rescue and grabbed my attacker.  They called the police.  They helped me wash the blood off my face and gave me ice.  They were witnesses and gave VERY detailed information that has helped tremendously.  Several appeared to be Latinos, maybe even illegals I really don’t know, but that didn’t matter to them and it certainly didn’t matter to me.  They put themselves in possible danger; they didn’t know if this man had weapons either, or if he was super strong and could throw them to the ground as he did me.  They could have decided to just record my attack on their cell phones and feel justified in supplying the footage to the police.  Or they could have participated in my attack, had they held the same perception as the man who threw me to the ground.  But instead, they saved me – a complete stranger, and a gay one at that.

America is great because one of my friends, who happens to be Hindu and Indian, bought me pepper spray and found out where I was eating dinner to deliver it so that I could protect myself from another attack (as she also was angry/crying/emotionally distraught that my attack even happened).  America IS great because a Christian friend of mine who holds a more conservative view of homosexuality but who has never broached the subject……despite this view of my sexuality reached out when they heard and shared their horror and sadness…..because that is Christian.  America IS great because of friends who offered to let me stay at their house instead of my planned hotel so I wouldn’t have to face the night after my attack alone.  America IS great because my friends and coworkers who support Trump have shared that what happened to me is wrong, and support my rights as an American to believe attacking someone in the candidate’s name is not right.  America IS great, because someone like me can be attacked in a very public way, with very public rhetoric and a super public slogan being thrown in my face, can still emerge with love and hope for their country no matter who leads it.  (Never mind, I DO believe God is in control and don’t quite understand fear otherwise.)

THAT is why I believe America IS great and we don’t need to make it so…….

But I would be non transparent if I left it there.  It is absolutely a trigger for me when I see signs or bumper stickers that say “Make America Great Again!”, because all I perceive is the shaded out face of my attacker and the ground against my face…..blood everywhere and the physical and emotional pain and scars that are now my reality.  I relate my very graphic situation with that slogan.  It is hard for me to separate these words from those actions.  I fully understand that you may absolutely get a sense of hope that things may get better if things pan out as you hope.  I get that hearing “Make America Great Again!” brings up positive perceptions and reactions.

But which perception is right?

I don’t know.  But maybe we need to stop asking that question and begin to realize – we are people, not slogans.  We are flesh and bones and souls, not statistics.  We are more than this, and we are great.

 

 

 

 

 

Retribution

Full disclosure, I like the whole idea of retribution…..at least when it is directed at others.  If someone wrongs me or wrongs someone I love, I totally love the idea actually.  At least, in the flesh that is my humanness.  I think many of you, if you’re honest with yourself, would admit the same thing.  We inherently want and NEED people to get what they deserve.  Stab me in the back?  You’re gonna pay!  Drive like a jerk, I hope you get a ticket!  It aligns with the whole “eye for an eye” idea right out of our beloved Bible!  And yet, when the table is turned and retribution is pointed at me, I suddenly and completely value and live dead center in the land of grace and forgiveness.  Whether or not I have a contrite heart about the offense I caused, I will more often than not beg to not receive what I absolutely deserve.  “I had a bad day!”  “I didn’t sleep well last night!”  Even, “Wow, I was a jerk to do that, it was horrible of me.  Please forgive me.”  In every scenario, everything in me accepts that retribution is not God’s plan and forgiveness is superior in every way.

What is right?  Where should we live?

In society, this gets a little tricky for me.  I mean, seriously, if you drink and drive there will be consequences.  If you murder someone, there are and should be consequences.  To do otherwise would be a detriment to us all.  I am not advocating the removal of laws and punishments in the realm of society, rules at jobs, and that sort of thing.  I think we can all agree that, though some laws may be applied in an unequal fashion, they are important to our safety and wellbeing as a community.

But how does it look in relation to our religion?  Since I am a Christian, I will focus on what I know best – MY religion.  In MY religion, there are tons of scriptures that tell me to forgive people.  Colossians 3 says to forgive others as Jesus already forgave you.  Ephesians 4 goes further saying “hey get along, stop being jerks, and show compassion and forgiveness”.  It even says in John 20 if we withhold forgiveness, it will be withheld from us (among other Gospels)!  However, several Old Testament verses clearly created the means in which people could and should face retribution for their actions.  Exodus 32, Leviticus 26, and in Deuteronomy 7:9-10 ESV it says, “Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations, and repays to their face those who hate him, by destroying them. He will not be slack with one who hates him. He will repay him to his face.”  Pretty serious retribution right there.

So, I know Jesus calls me to forgive, but God clearly established that maybe I CAN and SHOULD hold people – especially those who don’t agree with me – to a level where I am totally justified in hating and condemning them.  I mean, God set the standard and I want to follow Him, so doesn’t that just seem like a natural progression?  Well, that just doesn’t feel quite right to me.

So, I offer up the following to consider in relation to the whole retribution thing.

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

Matt 18:21-35 ESV

Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants.  When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.  And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’  And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.  But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’  So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt.  So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.

ALL of us do not deserve the amazing gift of Grace that Jesus Christ provided to us.  We can never go to church enough, tithe enough, or do anything enough to earn the gift we received.  And really, Jesus never INTENDED us to earn it!  So we have no room to judge others nor real room to expect retribution as we have avoided it ourselves.  At least, that’s where I am in this thing called life.

What are your thought?