My uncle’s car broke down on a sparsely populated stretch of two-lane highway. This happened long before cell phones, and he was stuck in the middle of nowhere. He had to depend on the off chance that someone would happen along.
After a while he heard a soft buzzing that sounded like a swarm of bees heading in his direction. As the noise grew louder, he watched the horizon. Soon a group of motorcycle riders crested the hill.
Even though my uncle had not personally encountered bikers before, he was terrified at the sight of them. He had formed a critical conclusion of motorcycle riders from others’ opinions and harbored a preconceived idea that they were all dangerous. He feared they would rob and possibly harm him. With nowhere to hide, he felt completely helpless as he watched them approach.
I’ve known several tattooed biker guys with scraggly beards, do-rags, and wallets on chains, and I realize how they might seem ominous. Yet, I know from experience that we cannot accurately measure the true character of any person or group of people based on a stereotype.
Most of the motorcycle group waved as they passed by my uncle. Two riders stopped and politely asked if they could be of help.
Let’s face it; racism in this country is a reality and a hideous evil.
There is a great line from John Merrick, the Elephant Man, in the movie by the same title. Physically distorted, emotionally tormented because of his glaring differences, he tries to justify the cruelty of others by saying to a physician, “People are frightened by what they don’t understand.”
I can’t stand pain. To the point I almost passed out the first time I got my ear pierced. While on a college trip to Scotland I just decided to go for it. A woman in the back of a hair salon used what looked like a gun.
As the needle, bolt, rivet, whatever, shot through my ear lobe the room began to spin. I rushed to the bathroom, embarrassed, but relieved it was over.
When I returned home my parents generously offered to buy me diamond stud earrings if I got the other ear pierced. I declined. The pain remained too fresh in my memory. I couldn’t bring myself to undergo any more discomfort. No matter how temporary, and minor, it still hurt.
It seems silly to have made such a big deal over such a small thing. At the time it was a big deal. Until one day, years later, when having my other ear done I realized, no matter how it hurt to get my ear pierced, the pain was nothing compared to what Jesus endured during his life.
The beatings, crown of thorns, and being nailed to a cross to hang until dead. Not to mention the ridicule, denial, slander, and betrayal he endured.
I don’t think any one of us can imagine such emotional and physical suffering. I honestly don’t believe any Christian, or decent human being, would want anyone to undergo the misery Christ did.
Yet we witness too many people, who say they love Jesus, causing anguish to others. Often in the name of God.
The contradiction between Jesus, who was inclusive love in action, and the exclusive religion that bears his name raises the question, which Jesus would consider worse.
The agony he suffered in life and while dying on the cross?
Or the pain of being betrayed by people who disrespect his life and sacrifice by judging, abusing, and excluding others in his name?
My vote is for the latter.
No matter if we are gay, straight, black, white, female, male, rich or poor, limitless numbers of people experience religious persecution. I know of a woman who was asked to leave a congregation because she wore a red dress to church. A family I know disowned their son for marrying a woman they considered a non-believer. My aunt was not allowed to wed the love of her life because the man was Jewish. A friend was told by the minister of a church she had to grow her hair long in order to be accepted by God and the congregation.
These examples, and countless others, are a result of a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of Christ’s Church as an inclusive community of love and kindness, and as a guide on how to live with the integrity of Jesus. The egocentric hutzpah to persecute, exclude, and attempt to dominate in God or Jesus’ name, while prevalent, is certainly not action aligned with Christs’ heart. Yet, it is behavior witnessed with disappointing pervasiveness in the Church and therefore sadly within society in general.
I believe the most important labor of love Christians perform is honestly looking at the personal relationship they have with Jesus. Which includes candidly challenging why the religion created in the name of Christ is too often elitist and cruel, when Jesus was a messenger of inclusive compassion.
There is a coarsening of our senses and our spirits these days. Much of it comes from the influence of Washington, D.C. The political landscape there is now dreary like a scorched desert. Nothing exists in most of politics but roaming predators stalking their prey viciously waiting to attack.
The scene is so bizarre now that nobodies from nowhere who are inexperienced, inept, discourteous, and amateurish, have taken the spotlight and never stop standing in it. And worse, they have been given just enough power from the media, and from muddleheaded voters, that they perceive themselves to be important.
According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, peruse means “to examine or consider with attention and in detail.” And dictionary.com says peruse means “to read through with thoroughness or care.”
Have you thought about what a difference it would make to your peace and joy if you actually perused life rather than skimming through it?
One day, I asked myself this question. Stressed and hurried, I felt disconnected from myself and life. Why was I constantly choosing to experience life as if I were a stone tossed out across a lake, touching down then skipping above the water, over and over? The moments when I was above the water, or the present, far outweighed the times I was immersed in whatever I was doing.
When I consciously slowed down, I became introspective. I asked myself, “Regina, if you are not devoted to patiently immersing yourself fully in the here and now, how is it possible for you to actually enjoy life? Where is the satisfaction in allowing your thoughts to fantasize about a future event, rather than staying present to listen closely to a friend? What joy do you receive from letting your thoughts return you to a past situation, instead of patiently remaining present to thoroughly read and comprehend an e-mail from a relative? Why waste time wanting a traffic jam to be different?”
The past is no longer a real moment in time that we can influence or change. The past only holds memories of our life as it was. Returning to fond memories brings us great joy, but the past officially ended the instant we stepped from the then into now.
We cannot go back in time to change the choices we made. Reflecting on the past and our previous choices is the way we learn.
The remarkable Polish poet, Czeslaw Milosz, once wrote,
“This hasn’t been the age for the righteous and the decent.
I know what it means to beget monsters
And to recognize in them myself.”
It is an appropriate indictment of our own day and of our own selves.
I keep telling myself that what we are experiencing in our country is just a phase, something we have gone through before, where people who turn loathsome and violent, enormously greedy and arrogant, will change. That these dark clouds of hostility hovering over us will pass and the sunlight of decent behavior will shine again.
But there is something alarmingly stubborn about the indignity, prejudice, violence, division and hatred among us. We seem stuck in a continuous atmosphere of rancor and bitter estrangement. And it is disturbing and frightening that our leaders seem incapable or not
Two women in Arizona thought it was a good idea to vandalize a Mosque. They also thought it would be great to bring three children along to help.
The women have been arrested. They took a video of their actions and posted it to Facebook. One of the children can be overheard spewing hatred.
My heart breaks when I hear of these type actions against our brothers and sisters of different religious faiths. My heart also breaks for the children. They are being taught by two women whose behavior calls into question their ability to properly nurture the children into respectful and responsible citizens. They are children whose lives are ahead of them. They are too young to say no to their mother. Yet, this very thoughtless action will tear their lives apart. And the lives of their mothers.
Anyone who exhibits this behavior is not on the side of God. And God does not side with them.
God gave us free will. No matter how small our actions, you and I have
Today, I was reading an article on the website of a leading news organization written by a seasoned investigative journalist and decided to look at the string of comments. As a public figure and someone devoted to integrity and God I have been trolled on a few occasions over the years. But, I was taken aback at the number of hateful comments made against the man’s fact based reporting by people who voluntarily identified themselves as Christians.
Yet, I was not really surprised. Over the past several decades I have noticed a growing incongruence within the political and religious arenas in the United States between some who call themselves Christians and behavior that is anything but Christ-like.
Maybe these people attend a congregation where the vilification of those who are perceived to be social, political, religious, or ideological enemies originates from the pulpit. Possibly they listen to and believe the plethora of misinformation disseminated
I don’t know if there is an official judgment day as I believe we answer to God each day for our actions, thoughts and words. But if there is some event where God sits in judgment, I don’t think those who are working to undermine the investigation into the actions of the current President of the United States have a clue what they are in for.
Why are some people in Washington and people in certain media outlets going to such lengths to discredit those who are working to find truth? Seriously, this is the question all of us as patriots (no matter our party affiliation) should be asking because we are currently engaged in a battle between good and evil.
On the evil side are those who are corrupt. They know they are guilty, which makes them desperate to obstruct the work of those who want to find truth. On the good side are those who are being attacked for their investigative work which they are conducting to protect our democracy, our constitution and us, the American people.
Whether there is an official judgment day or not, God is aware of who is guilty and who is courageously attempting to bring the
In the overall design, you and I are only alive for a very brief period—much too short to waste time holding a grudge or settling for drama, fear, and sadness. When we place more importance on being proven right than we do in our relationships, we have, in essence, donned flowing silk robes and placed ourselves in the middle of a dense rose garden. Life situations and interactions with other people become masses of twisted thorns that rip and tear at the fragile material. No matter how painful the thorns are or how deeply they tear at us, we are uncomfortable shedding the robe of our prideful self-image. Without our egocentric self-view, who will we be?
Through e-mail, I agreed to pick up and return my friend Katherine to the airport. Two weeks before her arrival, something came up that required me to change plans for transporting her back to the airport. Still, through e-mail, I assured her I would find someone to give her a ride back.
She arrived and I was there to greet her. After some time together, I confirmed I was unable to give her a ride back to the airport. The news came as a shock. Nothing I said could convince my friend that I had sent a second e-mail two weeks earlier; she thought I was lying.
I can be stubborn, and I can be argumentative. But for too many years being obstinate and confrontational did nothing to resolve my conflicts. And clinging to the notion that I had to be proven right only added fuel to the fire in the disagreements I had with others. Through experience I learned the most positive action was choosing to overrule my self-centered ego.
It was not easy, but the truth was that no matter how much I wanted validation from Katherine, there was absolutely nothing to be gained by arguing with her. Leading with the heart is caring more for friendship than pride, so I chose to let go of my ego’s need to be recognized as right. I did not want to be angry with her, nor did I want our time together to be uncomfortable. The only option I saw to ensure peace of mind was to be patient, accept what was, and allow the situation to resolve itself.