Tuesday, September 18, 2012


Rosh Hashanah. A new year. Also sometimes called the Feast of Trumpets or Yom Teruah. A time to make a joyful noise. This is the time when the Rabbis believe that the world was created. It is a celebration of God as King and Creator. We are reminded that God brought the world into being and continues to uphold the world, a continual outpouring of life and creativity.

These days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are days of Teshuvah, repentance. A time to reflect on our mistakes and make the conscious choice to turn toward the only one who can offer unconditional grace and forgiveness, toward the King and Creator, toward the only one who can heal our brokenness.

These words from John Parsons at Hebrew4Christians spoke to me today,
"God is both infinitely loving and infinitely just, and both of these "attributes" are inseparably a part of who he is. God is One. Nonetheless, the cross of Yeshua proves that "love is stronger than death, passion fiercer than the grave; its flashes are flashes of fire, a raging flame, the very flame of the Lord" (Song. 8:6). It is at the cross that "love and truth have met, righteousness and peace have kissed" (Psalm 85:10). This implies that we must drop our defenses – even those supposed objections and pretenses voiced by our shame – and "accept that we are accepted." It is God's great love for you that leads you to repent and to turn to him. Allow yourself to be embraced by his "everlasting arms."
It truly is a time of celebration. We, so often, wallow in our mistakes, grovel in our repentance. We view repentance as a time to hate ourselves. I think of self-flagellation and penance...something church history has taught us. This isn't it at all, though. Repentance is confession and turning away. It is starting fresh. It is acknowledging that we are loved enough to be forgiven.

I read in the book To Forgive is Human that people don't admit mistakes or ask forgiveness unless there is some possibility that they will be forgiven. This is the basis upon which relationships are built. You cannot be honest and truthful in your relationship, admitting mistakes & moving on to be a better person unless you can reasonably expect some grace.

The King and Creator offers us this kind of acceptance, love and grace. Repentance is impossible without this grand acceptance.  And self-hatred isn't necessary. In fact, it's contradictory. Possibly, it's even a defense mechanism. If we hate ourselves, we don't actually have to believe that we can change, be different, be loved, be forgiven. If we drop the defense of self-hatred, we can repent, turn, start fresh, walk new...right into a sweet new year. This is joyous, indeed!

Shanah Tovah!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Suffering, Arrogance, Guilt & Faith?

I've been thinking about suffering. My thoughts came about indirectly. I was talking with a Christian person who told me she has no upsetting pregnancy symptoms because she has rebuked all of those symptoms, and God gives us authority over our bodies, according to scripture. Her husband is a walking miracle...literally, he survived a car accident, which left him unable to walk for 10 years. And, today, against all physical possibility, he walks.

I was raised in a Pentecostal, Charismatic church. I know all about speaking in tongues and being slain in the spirit and prophecy...and healing. I also know all about hypocrisy and false fronts and pride. And, given this experience, I practice a lot of skepticism.

My first response to being told that one simply needs to rebuke symptoms of illness and take authority over one's own body is to assume that the speaker has never really been ill, never really suffered. I had to ask myself what it means when the speaker really has known suffering.

And, so, I got to thinking about suffering. I realized that my first assumption is to think that if one has truly known suffering, one won't be so quick to judge others. Suffering teaching empathy, grace & compassion. It makes us tender to the suffering of others, more quick to help.

But then I realized that suffering very often has another effect. It can make people angry and bitter. It can harden people against the suffering of others, produce selfishness and a sense of entitlement.

But that isn't all. Suffering also has the potential to breed pride. Arrogance. A sense of having earned something. The right to judge others. Having come through suffering and out the other side can make a person pretty proud of themselves, pretty sure that they have the right answers. A person feels justified in standing by smugly while others suffer when they could just do XYZ and be done with it.

And then I felt guilty. I felt guilty for making the judgment that someone else might be arrogant and prideful. Because if I call out the pride of another, doesn't that assume some pride on my own behalf, some sense of rightness and justification in calling another out?

And how do I know they aren't right? How do I know it isn't all just a lack of faith on my behalf? A failure to to rebuke and take authority when I really should?

How do we walk the line of humility and grace...and wisdom and freedom? How do I know the truth? How do I know that I am right and someone else is wrong? How do I not accept the guilt and judgment because I don't believe that God is a God of guilt and judgment? How do I believe in a God of miracles and then not expect them?

How do I sit by and see my mother, a missionary for many years, a beautiful, strong, gracious & compassionate woman, struggle with cancer and blood disease and blood clots? How do I know whether to rebuke this illness or pray, "Thy will be done?"
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