loving Jesus, not the nation

It’s Memorial Day in the USA.  Many people have hung flags with pride and celebrated soldiers like saints.

I’m different. I’ve been humming a non-patriotic song..   Every day I remember the sin and horror of war and cry out to God for forgiveness and conversion.  Today is no different. I pray in thanksgiving for the non-violence of the cross and remember the many non-violent, civil-disobedient martyrs who have helped me know the real peace of Christ.  Like the non-patriotic song says, Jesus Christ is the only thing that freedom means to me!

“Anthem” by Five Iron Frenzy

A nation stands with heart in hand

To sing their anthem proudly

Voices raised to sing their praise

Of their hollow country

All this talk of freedom

And some talk of liberty

From your plastic podium

You try and convince me

I can’t fall anymore

For some silver-tongued song

Your freedom isn’t free

So let me say what freedom means to

I can’t see red, white, and blue waving in the air

I don’t hear the bombs bursting and I don’t even care

I’m sorry for my lack of faith I’m not the greatest patriot

If this is all there is to freedom I don’t want it

I can’t fall anymore

For some silver-tongued song

Your freedom isn’t free

So let me say what freedom means to

Pushing us a drug that you call freedom and democracy

Promise us that selfishness is the means for happiness

I burned that bridge so long ago that I can hardly see

Anything but solace in what freedom means to me

I can’t fall anymore

For some silver-tongued song

Freedom isn’t free

So let me say what freedom means to

It cannot mean to serve ourselves

That doesn’t mean a thing

It doesn’t mean to give the license

To seek ourselves in anything

That would be slavery to ourselves it isn’t free

Jesus Christ, the only thing that freedom means to me.

No worries, no joke, if the world ends, I still love you

“To all my Pharisaical law-worshiper acquaintances: if the “rapture” happens this weekend like you demand it must, let me just say: my house keys are under the back doormat, so help yourself to my guns & Bibles. Please be gentle, though, when you throw the hardcover one at each other.  I won’t be there to forgive you.” 

This was the Facebook status of my friend Jesse K.  yesterday.  Jesse and I worked together at a Lutheran Bible Camp in Iowa in the summers of 1999 and 2000.  He now works as the camp’s program director.  He knows some things about the Bible and Christianity and he’s a really smart guy.  As for his Facebook status regarding this weekend, he’s completely kidding.

Like me, Jesse doesn’t expect to be sucked into heaven on Saturday. I thought his satirical statement was hilarious.  I agree with its point too.  Believers need to remember the dangers of focusing on literal and legalistic interpretations of scripture, instead of the heart of the law of God: love.

You probably have heard that Harold Camping of Family Radio and his followers have been warning all of us that the end of the world is scheduled to happen on Saturday.  This is not the first time that this has happened.  NPR’s story about how Harold Camping compares in history to other doomsday “prophets” has helped me answer questions from my students this week.

I talked to my friend Hillary B.K., a Lutheran pastor, on Wednesday night.  She joked that it might not be necessary for her to write a Sunday sermon this week, but then she figured that God would probably leave some ministers for the people who are left behind.

I laughed and asked her what I need to do to get ready for the rapture.  She told that I needed to catch up on my repenting. I needed to get busy making a sackcloth and smear myself with ashes then wander around the city, fast and say I was sorry for my sins.  I laughed and told her I would go straight to the business district and federal buildings and loudly apologize for the destruction our social sins of greed and militarism have caused.

Really though, I am fascinated by all of the commotion created by the end-of-the-world hype.  I think it’s pretty funny and I wonder if I am unloving to those who take it very seriously.  Certainly, comedians and news-writers have had a lot of fun lately with the apocalyptic material.  I can’t say I blame them.  I am convinced God has a sense of humor and laughs right along with us.  As I laugh, I keep on loving and hoping the best for all people.

Yet, I  know I have had my own concerns about where the world is headed.  I even wrote my own little apocalyptic statement in 2008 after I learned about Peak Oil theory in 2005.  But generally, I am not guided by fear, just consciousness. I tend to typically choose trust in God and love.

Admittedly, I am no Bible nor Eschatology scholar.  Everyone’s guess is as good as mine.  I am only a woman who is trying to live the Gospel in the 21st century.

I know that I have met Christians who talk about the end-times like a cop-out or comfort.  I have actually heard Christians say things like:  “I am just glad that he end times is soon and I am saved.  I hate this world and this life.”  I bit my tongue and said a prayer; escapism instead of struggle for the sake of growth and loving seem unhealthy to me.

In my own family I have experienced the harm of rapture-focused fear-driven types of Christianity. One summer my youngest sister went to a different Bible camp than the rest of us because of a schedule conflict. She was 10 at the time.

During the middle of the night they had a “rapture drill” for the children. They woke everyone up and told them it was the end of the world then brought them to a party for those that were “saved.”

My sister says that camp was a paradise until she was asked if she was saved. Then she heard “Would you like to be? Why not, what’s your deal?  You’re crying? You’re crying because you have not accepted Jesus in your life.”  She cried with confusion. Now, 13 years later she still has a lot doubts and confusion and doesn’t really profess a faith.  She knows she is loved, however, so that’s good news!

Let’s tell the good news! We are all loved!  Jesus is all about love, not fear nor judgement!!  The gospel is about trust and faith and helping people know God through love by sharing, compassion, healing, service, prayer, and work for justice.

As far as the end of the world goes,  I want you to all know that I love you, no matter what.  And, I hope you don’t mind, but I am going to believe what Jesus says about the rapture, more than anyone else:

Jesus began to say to them, “See that no one deceives you.
Many will come in my name saying, ‘I am he,’ and they will deceive many.
When you hear of wars and reports of wars do not be alarmed; such things must happen, but it will not yet be the end.
Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes from place to place and there will be famines. These are the beginnings of the labor pains.
But the gospel must first be preached to all nations.
If anyone says to you then, ‘Look, here is the Messiah! Look, there he is!’ do not believe it.  False messiahs and false prophets will arise and will perform signs and wonders in order to mislead, if that were possible, the elect.
Be watchful! I have told it all to you beforehand.
Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
“But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.
– Mark 13: 5-11, 21-23, 30-33 

Easter Eucharist

Chocolate Chip Cookie

frosted fresh cookie crumbs
coat the painted tile ground
icons of mysteries shatter
the ugly fear shame sorrow pain
that did eat the inside of my broken bruised beaten

in my hands
warm gooey dough
still hot baked beauty blessed

together we eat
as the feast
meets my cells
and taste buds dance
eyes closed
I see
Love looking at me seeing Himself
me loving as I gaze back
and know my Love
in the Love
that set me

Glory Be!

in a torture chamber, remembering love

Sure, we’re Easter people and there’s a lot to rejoice about.  Yet the Christian life is no easy street. In fact, sometimes it feels like following Christ brings me right into torture chambers.

If you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good,
this is a grace before God.
For to this you have been called,
because Christ also suffered for you,
leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps.
He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.

When he was insulted, he returned no insult;
when he suffered, he did not threaten;
instead, he handed himself over to the one who judges justly.
He himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross,
so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness.
By his wounds you have been healed.
For you had gone astray like sheep,
but you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.   –1 Pt 2:20b-25

It’s nice that scripture says it’s a grace if we suffer for doing what is good.  But I can’t say that the words always comfort and strengthen me. Sometimes the hurt just seems too extreme.

No worries, I am not in serious pain or trouble.  No one is sending me hate mail or throwing me in prison.  But I can’t say that being committed to Christ and advocating for justice has made me an especially popular person throughout my life.  I have been teased, I have had things thrown at me and I have been called names.  Torture comes in many forms and it’s always ugly, painful and dark.

The inner torment is tough, too.  At times my bitterness bubbles like lava, burning the innocent surrounding me.  Needles of sadness and confusion pluck at my spiraling soul.  Other times, doubts stop my acts of love completely cold.  I easily wonder if I am really following God’s will and doing what is right.  I keep flopping on my face as I try to be faithful.

Still, I get up.  I don’t believe God ever wants us to suffer.  No parent ever wants her child to be in pain, especially our Great Parent who is Love Himself.  But God is always interested in our growth and uses all situations to love us dearly.  The paradox is that suffering is redemptive.  While we suffer, we grow and change and all sorts of great miracles are silently present to us.  It’s beautiful, really.

All over the bible verses remind me that receiving persecution is a consequence for doing what is good.  Plus, today’s ordinary saints and prophets affirm it.  I’ve been told by a wise monk that the things that seem like crosses to me are crosses precisely because I am walking with Christ. This is a gift; I can have joy!

Oh yeah, joy, the joy of Easter! Jesus has shown us that His power is greatest and love wins all wars.  Wow! I really am protected and taken care of by the man who has suffered more than I ever will. It’s such a sweet, good deal!

Even if the consequences of Christian discipleship have brought me into a type of torture chamber, I can still have great faith and joy. And I do.  This is what St. Francis refers to as perfect joy. I love the Bible stories of faithfulness: stories of Daniel’s persevering in the lions den and Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego persevering in the furnace.  Such ancient wisdom challenges and encourages me along in my own, less dramatic, situations.  I am trusting that with God’s continued graces I shall also persevere.

As I contemplate the truth, I remember Love.  I’m remembering that I can play and laugh and dream as Christ heals my wounds.  Jesus is the shepherd and guardian of my soul everywhere I am, no matter how ugly.  Plus, all of us are in this together.  Nothing is too bad for us, we are all God’s children. Alleluia!

I choose to rejoice in the struggle.  I choose to be grateful, not grumpy.  Singing the song called “Lions” by the Christian band, Lost and Found helps me remember and remain rooted in love.  I hope you’ll join in the singing as you watch this video and live your life.


Spring-time tree

the lacy trees
caress the breeze
like solemn faces
staring into eternity
hoping to see, understand
what is happening

across the gray cloud cover
a sudden clear message:
time to, must stop
cheering, chattering, sobbing
over life lost and mission done

stand together
lean into the new
Easter leaves and remember
to be
family listening
through the cracked concrete
made from ancient pillars

look back into
the trees
with ears turned out
to dignity and songs
of freedom
for all, each, no matter

the forest beckons


Photo credit: http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/202782