Splintered – a Chip of the Old Family Stone

Only love to lose

By: Jana Greene

Remember the old Sly and the Family Stone song “Everyday People?” (In case you don’t, here is a link to listen: Everyday People )

I think the modern Christian Church needs to heed the message. We’ve become so splintered by theologies, ideologies, and ego-ologies. My heart is heavy for the division, and frankly, all it manages to do is prop up the devil, who – in case you haven’t noticed – is having his heydey on this planet already.

Sometimes I’m right and I can be wrong
My own beliefs are in my song
The butcher, the banker, the drummer and then
Makes no difference what group I’m in
I am everyday people.
There is a blue one
Who can’t accept the green one
For living with a fat one
Trying to be a skinny one
Different strokes
For different folks.

For the longest time, I operated from a place of loving God out of fear, terrified of displeasing him. And that meant shunning you if you participated in certain behaviors, so that I could not be accused of “condoning” it.

We don’t have the time to bicker among ourselves, because Rome is burning right now.

Billy Graham put it succinctly:

“It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge and my job to love.”

(And yes, I am throwing in a little Billy Graham into a piece about Sly and the Family Stone. God digs it when his kids mix it up.)

Sometimes I’m right, but I can be wrong. That STINGS, doesn’t it?

Peter is my favorite disciple, but he was far from the most perfect. His propensity for flubbing things is what endears him to my heart, he was ‘wrong’ a lot.  (Google ‘Peter’s sins’ if you are interested)  Yet Jesus told him –

“…And now I’m going to tell you who you are, really are. You are Peter, a rock. This is the rock on which I will put together my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out.” – Matthew 16:18

Peter was Everyday People. Just like me and you.

I am no better and neither are you
We are the same, whatever we do
You love me, you hate me, you know me and then
You can’t figure out the bag I’m in
I am everyday people.

There is a gay one, who won’t accept the straight one, that won’t accept the trans one for living with the  (fill-in-the-blank with your favorite deadly sin of choice.) one.  And that’s WITHIN the Church. We are sending the world the message that we love everybody all the same but stay over there so you don’t rub off on me.

Jesus wants us to go to the world and rub off on it like crazy. That was his whole modus operandi.He came to welcome everyone into the family of God. We don’t get to exclude certain groups of people because we find their choices distasteful, or even because the Bible says its wrong.

Are we to pretend then that all behaviors are acceptable to God and just ‘get over’ ourselves? The world is well aware that they are considered sinners by the Church.

What they maybe haven’t heard is the message of LOVE that is supposed to be our cornerstone.

When I’m perfect, I will pick up rocks and throw them at you. But honestly, I’m pretty sure that’s not happening.

It’s not that sin is unimportant to God.

It’s that sin became dwarfed and overcome by the power of the Cross, and LOVE is a bigger deal.

Our message of Love rests on the Cornerstone that cannot be moved by cultural trends. It’s so much bigger than that. What would the world look like if we didn’t make sin the biggest consideration in loving? We like to label the stones we throw at other people, don’t we? We feel so JUSTIFIED, righteously angered.

In essence, I guess I am saying yes – let’s get over ourselves.

Let’s loose those stones around our necks that we carry to make ourselves feel morally superior to “those” people Playing Superior is exhausting, believe me, I know. Jesus said this, and the weary world needs to hear it:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” – Matthew 11:30 (MSG)

And so on and so on
And scooby dooby dooby
Oh sha sha.

We got to live together.
I am everyday people.

Please Church, can we just get on with the business of loving one another? I believe if we do, the gates of hell itself will not prevail against us.

God bless us, every one.

 

“With that, Peter, full of the Holy Spirit, let loose: “Rulers and leaders of the people, if we have been brought to trial today for helping a sick man, put under investigation regarding this healing, I’ll be completely frank with you—we have nothing to hide. By the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the One you killed on a cross, the One God raised from the dead, by means of his name this man stands before you healthy and whole. Jesus is ‘the stone you masons threw out, which is now the cornerstone.’ Salvation comes no other way; no other name has been or will be given to us by which we can be saved, only this one.” – Acts 4:8-12.

JUDGED.

JUDGED

By: Jana Greene

“None of us has ever seen a motive. Therefore, we don’t know. We can’t do anything more than suspect what inspires the actions of another. For this good and valid reason, we are told not to judge. ” ― Brennan Manning, The Wisdom of Tenderness: What Happens When God’s Fierce Mercy Transforms Our Lives

You don’t understand me. You may think you know me, but you don’t.

If you only knew my heart … you might not judge me so harshly.

 Or, you might judge me even more harshly….if you knew my heart.

A few weeks ago, I posed the simple question on social media:  “If you could describe the feeling of being judged by others in one word, what would that one word be?”  I  received an avalanche of responses from people of all different ages and creeds –  in rapid succession. Most of the responses were graphic, the words divided pretty neatly between two camps:

Deep, wounded feelings of inferiority,  and a strong, almost violent verbal depiction of spiritual beating.

Being judged  does not feel uncomfortable… or  a little unpleasant.

It’s personal.  It’s the worst kind of personal, because it confirms the  fundamental fear of being misunderstood, and couples it with the sting of rejection.

My own word to describe feeling judged  was “jagged.”  When other people judge me, it makes me feel torn – not slashed in a way that is easily mended or stitched, but with uneven edges and patches missing. When the full brunt of the judging stops stinging, I can tell that healing will be slow and scarring.

Isn’t that the crux of feeling judged? If taken to heart, it never heals just-so. Judgment feels jagged,  because it is sharp-edged self-righteousness … like the blade of a sickle, separating us one from another without benefit of cautery.

Many readers responded with similar words.

“Raw”” shared one friend. “Cut-to-the-bone,  ashamed, disgusted, disappointed, gut-wrenching….take your pick.”  She continued, ” it’s never fun to feel judged… like you came up short on character or something.”

Broken. Splintered. Betrayed. Heavily yoked.

Another friend found it difficult to stop at one word to describe her feelings. “Violated and victimized,” she explains. When people smile to your face, and talk behind your back, “It is sabotage , emotional hijacking.”

Being assessed as “not enough” is just as painful, as having your value estimated by another human being is often worse than having been misunderstood.

“Vulnerable,” described one young woman. And as if she had made herself vulnerable in the posting of the very word, others added to the sentiment. “And less-than.”

Misrepresented. Misunderstood. Rejected. Pitied. And perhaps most stingingly, condemned.

“Unworthy,” shared one. “And crestfallen.”

“Small,” said another friend, to whom I would never would have attributed that feeling. “You know – like someone has just decided you’re not worth a place at the table.”

The comments of one person gave me great pause.

“When someone passes judgement, I feel like they put a label on me,  stuck me  in a box and taped it up tight. This enables them to just ‘walk away’  and not ever really know the true me. I have to also add that I think people pass judgement when they are afraid, or lack knowledge and empathy.”

Only one person can have one person’s experience. Only God knows what my experience is.  The oft-repeated adage, “Only God can judge me” is true, but we forget that sometimes, when we are busy determining whose motives are pure and whose are not (as if we could ever know) and who among us is in the wrong.

Being judged by other human beings doesn’t make one  repentant.  If anything, it makes one defensive. Maybe when our spirits evolve beyond that spiritual schnaudenfrude (by your misfortunate deeds, I feel much holier) the blade will dull.  I hope so. I think God wants his kids to be kind to one another. That evolution can only happen when we ask for God’s help in overcoming our human ways.

I have to be reminded of this constantly –  to live this, because I’ve just made too many mistakes to survive  spiritually intact otherwise.  I’ve been too hurt, and  inflicted too much hurt – in my careless, momentary value judgements of others.

And taking the judgement of others too tightly to heart slices and dices, jaggedly…opening a a big, black, sucking vortex of self-important insecurity. When the scars from all the judgement become too tight, it is a reality check that I am giving people too much power.

The power to stick me in a box, tape a label on it and walk away…and never even know the true me.

The true You.

You don’t understand me. You think you do, but  you don’t. (Heck, I don’t even understand me!) But the Father, who understands every individual’s inherent value,  does. And it’s personal.

God, in Christ, says

“You think you understand me, but you don’t.  If you only knew my heart, you might come sit next to me at the table,  and know freedom.

I KNOW YOUR HEART.

There is no condemnation.

I’ve seen what you’ve done. It is finished, as far as the East from the West.

I’ve walked around in human skin, I know the temptations firsthand. It isn’t easy. Shake off that yoke.

Shake it off and stop trying to tie it around the necks of others. The burden is mine.

I understand you. In me, you are….

Perfect. Unbroken. Complete. Valued.

You are connected. Continuous. Fixed and whole.

I didn’t come to cut you away, but to bridge what is holy with what you are – what you really are …mine.”

With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.” – Romans 8:1 (Message)

 

Open Arms

By:  Jana Greene

Happy Sunday, day of Worship and Rest!

I just wanted to share a very short devotional with you today.  Mercifully short, in comparison to my usual blog posts, you might say!

This morning, I opened my Bible to Romans 14:1 and read about how love and spiritual hospitality meet in a place of tolerance and acceptance.  I’ve been trying to read scripture lately with an “amnesia of the preconceived”.  Praying that my  blinders will be removed (while being scared that they actually WILL!)  just soaking in what the Word says without my personal moral preferences auto-correcting everything I read.

Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do.  And don’t jump over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with – even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department.  Remember, they have their own history to deal with.  Treat them gently.

Hmmm.  Whether I “know” I’m “right” or not?
Would I rather be strong in my opinions or strong in the faith department?
I’m learning that its hard to be both!

Dear God,

 Forgive me for judging those who have their own history to deal with, and help me to show them YOUR love, uncontaminated by my own point of view.  Oh, and Lord?  As you remove my blinders, please treat me gently, too.   Thank you, Jesus.