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Doing the Right Thing

My mental backlog of blog posts is starting to get a little overwhelming.   I could go into all the reasons why I have no time to write, but I guess I’ll just let this one fly off the cuff tonight.  It’s been a really strange, but wonderful day.

First I will start with a dream I had this morning, which I don’t fully understand, but feel it’s related in some way.  It was definitely one of “those” dreams – the kind that stands out from the normal kind, whatever normal is.  But some just scream, “Pay attention!’

I was in a small village, out in the main street, and many people were out walking around.  News was spreading that someone important was coming, and everyone seemed excited and started lining up on the sidelines like it was going to be a parade.  But a man began warning to not go and see, not to look.  He said a powerful woman was coming in really fine, splendid clothes, and an entourage, and you will want to look at her, but you must not look.  If you glanced at her in the least, you would be under her dominion in some way.  My excitement turned to fear, and I began looking for a place to hide from this splendid, yet frightfully powerful woman.  I could find nowhere, until I came upon a seating bench that had a lid with storage underneath.  I was trying to get in and place the lid over me, but I realized I was too late, so I sat behind it, facing away from the street, hoping to just not be seen.  I could hear the crowds going wild and felt powerless to stop what was happening.  A woman was standing near me who was not cheering, yet she was not hiding either.  A man from the entourage stopped, and I pretended to be asleep (so I could keep my eyes closed and not see anything.)  I could hear the woman near me talking to him.  She wasn’t afraid, but she was pleading with him.  The man was her brother.  She kept saying how much she loved him and it seemed she was hoping to be the one with the most influence over him instead.   Then I realized that I had based all my fear on the warning of one man, and not even known if he was telling the truth or not.  Then I woke up.

Not long after I awoke, my husband received a phone call from someone we met through this blog who does desire to obey God through Torah observance.  We never knew if we would meet in person or not, but he just happened to be in town today, so we readily agreed to get together, and had him over for dinner.  As I was working in the kitchen preparing the meal, and he and my husband were having a good visit in another room (which I could not hear), I had the strong impression that this dream is about our meeting in some way.  I will let the reader decide in discernment.

I let them know when the meal was ready and we all sat down.  He was very kind to patiently listen to my expounding (I get really passionate about Jesus, Spirit, and the power of Love).   We went around the usual circular discussions that are inevitable whenever the Old and New Covenant ways of thinking collide.  There are so many ideas, so many angles, and ways of seeing things.  I can’t give someone my eyes, or my heart vision.  Nor can I judge their heart.  I sensed in him a deep conviction, and desire that was very familiar.  I have it too.  I used to walk on that path he is on, but found a different way to apply that conviction.  In fact the practical application of my belief system continues to change and grow.  I believe now more than ever that patience and love is the most important element in relationships of any kind where religious differences are present.  Can we make the other party approach the table this way?  No.  Can we choose to?  Yes.  I have seen and sadly been party to some painful divisions since leaving the HRM between people who had much more in common than they disagreed on, yet the mountains of offense continued to build over differences in information and perception.

If someone believes with all their heart, they are doing the right thing, then they are.  Even if their ways seem crazy to us, their hearts are being true to what they believe.  I have a great deal of respect for our new friend who loves God, trusts God, and wants to obey Him.  That is a beautiful thing, even if that looks much differently to him than it does to me now.  Of course I did my best to explain the new and improved version of righteous fruit (it’s not really new, we just have it in HD with Jesus, with the static taken away).  But I can’t force him to see the world my way.  No one could have forced me.

After our friend had gone, I saw a status post on facebook:  “Do the right thing, regardless of whether bad things may come later or what it might lead to. Do the right thing today.”  This friend does not observe Torah as given to Moses, but follows Jesus whole-heartedly.

A short time later I found a similar quote while continuing an internet search I had been on for a few days about my family history.  I ran across an article written in 1961 about my grandfather who gave up his 15 year career as a law enforcement officer because he had just been baptized as a Seventh-day Adventist.  They would not allow for him to have Saturdays off, so he turned in his badge.  Ironically, the article was written by my other grandfather who was the pastor that baptized him.  The editors added a relevant quote from Ellen White that read, “It is the very essence of all right faith to do the right thing at the right time.”

I had seen this piece in a scrap book a long time ago.  Our family had held it up for many years as the picture of integrity.  My husband also for years would not accept a lucrative promotion at work because he refused to work on the Sabbath.  We followed our conscience and I don’t regret that.  However during those years, we have many regrets about failures to love with our whole heart.  Which will hold more weight in the end?   I am thankful for the few instances where we were given a chance to redeem those lost opportunities.

Today I also saw a picture of my grandmother’s headstone, wife of the former police officer.  I did not attend her funeral, and she is buried far from where I live.  It was the first time I’d seen it.  Under her name it reads, “She Loved Country Music.”   She also observed the Sabbath and the feasts, and out of respect for her, I will only say that it makes me sad this was the love she was known for.  I loved her, but she loved very little and it has grieved me to see how the pain of not being loved gets handed down from generation to generation.

So there we have it, a day all about doing the right thing, which is not exactly defined the same way by everyone.  HRM followers disagree about this all the time between themselves, as well as Christians.  We think having a Law would simplify it and preserve it.  It doesn’t.

Often the right thing is determined by fear.  There is something that needs to be avoided, controlled, or protected, or an approval to gain and keep.  These fears used to drive my view of faith, scripture, and my value system about what is right.  I understand this path very well.  I go back there a lot in other areas of my life as it seems to be my default operating system installed since birth.  It takes conscious effort, or realignment I should say, to His heart and mind, to operate from the other center point.

Perfect Love casts out all fear.  I believe this is the example of the fearless woman in my dream.  What if the right thing was determined only by what was Love.  Perfect love loves no matter what.  Even to the death.  What is the right thing?  A legal system can never answer this question because the explanations take volumes of Talmud, endless Supreme Court cases, or other books and tapes and videos without end.  Yet there is always something left unclear and uncovered, or impossible.

Love answers the question with itself and satisfies all.

Romans 13:8 Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loves another has fulfilled the law.
Romans 13:10 Love works no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
Galatians 5:14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
James 2:8 If you fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, you shall love your neighbor as yourself, you do well:

Heroes

I suppose it happens often, that we learn more about people at their death than we ever knew during their lives.  In fact, living under the sub-culture of a strict religious sect as a child, the first time I ever heard of Elvis was the day he died.  I was out taking my banana-seat bike off some sweet jumps we built, when a neighbor kid stopped me and squealed, “Did you know Elvis died??!!!”.  I had not yet learned it wise to conceal ignorance of matters that seem common knowledge so I asked, “Who’s Elvis?”  I don’t know if my friend was more shocked at the death or at the fact that I had never heard of him.

But one man who passed this week I knew a little of.  In 1986, Amnesty International held a benefit concert in my city.  I went, not because I knew much about their work, but because of the amazing line up of musicians coming. I still remember this as the best concert I’ve ever attended.  Five hours of some of the greatest music the 80′s had to offer.  The topic of the night was Nelson Mandela, still in prison.  We recoiled at the thought a developed society could, in our modern times, be so deeply and oppressively divided over race.

I later heard all the excuses surrounding the “it’s just the way things are” philosophies, as well as all the derogatory opinions of Mandela himself.  A co-worker from Africa of British descent, whose family fled Rhodesia during the transition to Zimbabwe, flatly stated that black Africans cannot govern themselves.  He astutely observed that all attempts at their own independence ended in bloody chaos, without taking into consideration what might be creating the challenges.  A client listening in to this conversation, a white, British citizen himself, had some choice remarks about their average intelligence and other things which I really prefer to forget.  This was right about the time when Mandela was being released from prison, soon to do the opposite of what white people expected.  Forgive.

Yes, Mandela had a different political ideology than most Americans embrace, and yes he did resort to violence in his past, as so many often do when they feel it is the only way to overcome their oppressors.  That’s not a foreign concept in America is it?  I think that’s what those canon shot fireworks on 4th of July are meant to commemorate?  Who is a terrorist and who is a liberator?  Just depends which side you are born on doesn’t it?  Violence is violence.  Either it’s a solution, or it’s not.  A worthy cause doesn’t make it prettier.  I understand why people believe it’s necessary.  I am sad when people (anywhere) see it as the first solution.

Often anger and hate boil over and create an endless cycle of killing and revenge.  But when Mandela walked out of the prison, he chose to leave the anger and hate behind and be truly free.  He led his countrymen in this path, and prevented what everyone expected – more killing than ever before.  I have read some of the most encouraging things in the last few days of his life and work.  They give me hope that peace and reconciliation can come, and hate can be put away in other places of the world where it seems to have consumed the minds and hearts of people.

There is no good side in a hate-filled land.  There is no bad side when Christ loves all the people involved with his own pierced hands and heart.  One side may be stronger than the other, but it is to the strong and those who have the power, to choose the path.  What if our enemies overcame us tomorrow?  What philosophy would we wish them to carry?  The one we now hold?  Or the one that Jesus taught, and Nelson Mandela learned to live and teach?  What if those First Nations that European civilization oppressed in America from the time the first ship landed, had a chance to rule over the kingdom built on their blood and land?  What would they choose and what would we deserve?

There are so many issues in this world we only seem to hear one voice from.  Often we may think there are only two sides when there are many.  We don’t seek to understand why, or walk in the shoes of another’s life to see through their eyes.  We want to be right, stronger, superior, victorious.

I discussed with my oldest son recently the phenomenon of super heroes in our pop culture.  Our society, in my experience, is overwhelmingly aspiritual, while at the same time very religious in some places.  But we still have our icons to worship – be they actual human celebrities, sports teams and players, or cartoons.  The heroes are strong, overcoming, witty, invincible avengers.  Yes, that’s the name of the movie even!  They are the opposite of Jesus, my superhero.  Are we a part of this culture that admires these values above all and not even realize how deeply drawn away we are from the heart of Christ?  We are so attracted to the patriotic Captain America, the strength of Hulk, and the self-centered humor and blind pride of Iron Man.  Mankind has always needed something bigger and  more powerful than themselves to worship.  The nature and heart of what we choose in this regard reveals our own desires.  I believe it takes the stronger man and woman to choose peace.  I am not sure I am that strong.  It’s hard to choose it even under my own roof sometimes.

My heart breaks for so many suffering people in this world – for the atrocities of the past, and the present.  This time of year, we think and speak of peace.  I shared a picture recently on facebook that said, “Dear God, let me worry less about putting Christ in Christmas, and more about getting Christ back in “Christian.”  It was shared more times than anything I have ever posted in my several years there, which shocked me.  I believe we deeply sense a problem in this country within the Body of Christ, but it’s easy to point the finger at all those “fake Christians” out there, when we need to look at our own lives – held up to the Light of Christ and His LOVE.  Let that Christ in the Christian begin with me.  Most of the time I feel like a paper-thin, invisible Christian.  I want the light to shine out, and for people to realize it’s HIM and not me.

Mandela’s heart was also tied with those who still waited for freedom.  I don’t want to argue about what that means, or what people deserve.  I just long for that with him, for all people.  When enemies collide in love – it’s the most beautiful thing on earth.  It began in the Cross, and may it continue to spread, one changed life at a time.

May we love all the people God put on this Earth, and consider ourselves in an honest manner.  

The Dark Side

Through the last few weeks I have been trying, once again, to understand the phenomenon of Halloween.  I call it that, because to me, I have no attraction to blatantly dark, evil things.  I suppose my temptations to the dark side are more subtle.  We all have to deal with unhealthy attractions in one way or another, but to openly embrace darkness as fun and exciting isn’t something I’ve ever really understood.  So I have been asking questions, observing, and exploring the concept from different angles.

This is cute and fun, and I enjoy this part of  fall celebrations.  Pumpkins, in their natural state, are beautiful and delicious.

DSC_0847 DSC_0853 DSC_0882

 

 

 

 

 

 

DSC_0915I even get why costumes are so much fun.  Who doesn’t love to dress up as something else?  It’s the play of childhood the rest of the year.  Grown ups love it too, and now do this at huge conventions all over the country in honor of their favorite pop-culture icons.Yes, we did have a discussion about how Darth Vader did come over to the good side of the Force and was reconciled to his son before he died. :)

But THIS is what I have such a hard time comprehending.  What is it about the human psyche that makes this so attractive?

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The roots of this holiday go back to the practice of dressing up as beings from the Netherworld in order to not be harassed by spirits of the departed who would be able to cross and cause trouble for the living on this night.  So is all this rooted in fear of death and the unknown?  If I become that which I fear, I will be protected from it?  This is my theory.  I don’t know if it’s true.  Most of the people I know who celebrate this holiday with gusto, are not “evil” or worshiping Satan in their closets at night.  People seem to enjoy being scared (hey, I love roller coasters), but I think more importantly we enjoy experiencing that which seems threatening, and realizing at the end of it, we are still okay.  It is an empowering ritual, and confronts our deepest fears about death and things that go bump in the night that we can’t see.

The thought occurs to me as well that any time we seek safety and security in anything but Jesus alone, and what He has done, we are celebrating a personal form of Halloween.  There is no cloak of safety in any human invention.  No mask can save us from the dark.  We need to take them off, in honesty, and embrace His Life.

I find that these celebrations (especially in remembering deceased ancestors and loved ones) are found in many cultures, past and present.  Usually practiced in the season where everything is dying off and the sun is waning, the natural world reminds us of our own impending mortality.

Maybe my lack of interest and attraction to these customs has to do with the fact that I have no fear or doubts about death, or any spirit without a body, because of my security in who I am in Jesus.  What better time of the year is there to share this GOOD NEWS to the world?   As many zealous Christians and HRM followers both understandably revile and abstain from this holiday,  I truly believe that in spite of all that seems dark and offensive, a deep truth lies beneath.  A truth that can be used as a foothold to bring Light, Hope, and Love to a world that has seen plenty of pain from the dark side.  In arguing so strongly against something, we sometimes unwittingly give it more power than it’s due, and magnify it.  I join my fellow humans in declaring victory over the fear of death.  Only in Jesus.   In Him there is no darkness or shadow.  It is vanished, because it has not power in itself.  That makes Halloween a reason to rejoice for me.

A few days ago I ran across a news story that repulsed me so badly I found myself hoping hell is very real and hot.  I don’t remember ever feeling quite that strongly about another human being.  Maybe for the first time, I felt I was seeing a picture of a man I judged as beyond any hope of reform.  All my convictions about loving people no matter what became irrelevant as my mind went to a place where my own child was in the story as the victim.   I honestly wish I did not know as much about evil as I do.  I’ve learned about some things so heinous I can’t even say them out loud to another person.  I wish I could un-know them, but I can’t.  I can’t fathom how human beings can get to the place where they are altogether inhuman.  But that which looks hopeless to me, is never impossible with God.  And even if a person is past all hope, it is not for me to know or deal out condemnation.

So many stories I’ve heard testify to forgiveness in impossible circumstances.  Corrie ten Boom’s witness of how God enabled her to forgive the guard from the concentration camp she had been held in, as well as how a terrorist in Colombia was led to Christ by a man he had tried to kill, all give me hope that evil has a mortal enemy.  Love.

Not long ago I received two publications in the mail from different ministries serving the persecuted church.   The first one I opened was entirely devoted to describing the rise radical Islam in the most derogatory manner, as well has holding in derision any politicians the author felt supported its existence.   I felt fear and frustration after looking through it, although the attempt was to raise support for those suffering under Islam’s persecution of Christianity.   The second newsletter ironically contained cover to cover testimonies of believers who had forgiven their attackers, sometimes through an intense struggle of prayer.   Some had lost family members, others limbs.  One newsletter rallied for fighting back, the other for love.

I have thought deeply about violence and in the past few months.  My country may not have a war on our own soil, but we are crumbling from within.  Random murder and mass shootings lead the headlines nearly every day.  No way to predict or prepare for what you may face from day to day, from criminals or even our own law enforcement agencies.  But we are good at numbing out so we don’t have to think about it.  We believe it will always happen to someone else, but not in my quiet, well-ordered universe.   We are also insulated from what is done under our own flag in other places, and the intense suffering of so many, both at home and away.  For some reason my eyes have been trained on these suffering ones intensely lately.  Sometimes it’s more than one heart can take in.  We fear the grief will overtake us, so we choose hardness instead.

If we realized how everything is connected, we could see that we cannot harm someone else without harming ourselves.  And Compassion, even when seemingly wasted, never is.  To me this is one of the deepest essences of the Cross, past all the theological models of what “atonement” means.  He came to make peace between humanity and God.  Thy Kingdom Come, Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in heaven.  This is His Way, and that is the way I want to walk.  He said, “My Kingdom is not of this world or my servants would… ?”  What if our first response to evil was not fear?  What if there was no fear?  This is true supernatural living.

Many people I know want a gun to protect themselves.  I am not saying it’s right or wrong.  My question is, what decision are we making about our own first response to a perceived threat?  After I have thought long and hard, and seen the results of love and fear, I have come to my own conclusion that I would rather die at the hand of evil than to become it.  Because even my death, if I were to remain in Love, would be a victory and to live in my hate would be defeat.   I do not have the ability to live this desire in my own willpower.  I am so quick at self-defense even in verbal confrontation.  But I believe I can ask for this gift and make a choice to love now before I’ve been asked to make one in the heat of a crisis moment.

I once discussed with an atheist why I believed in God.  I told him the best evidence I know of is the love that He gives His followers for their enemies.  I told him an amazing story I had heard at a recent persecution conference.  He said the story could not be true, and even if it was – he would label it as mental illness.  That it’s not healthy to take that attitude toward an aggressor.  Spock would probably agree.  It’s completely illogical.  And for me, what makes it true.

I will never know the deep wounds so many have in their hearts to heal through forgiveness.  I have not suffered the abuse and trauma, or loss, that so many millions have.  I can’t say I would be jumping at the chance to forgive.  When I see people angry and afraid, I understand. I have chosen that many times.  But I find nothing on earth as beautiful as a love that lays down its own life.  Maybe that’s why James said, “Count it all joy.”

No More of This  by Ramone Romero

“Those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.”
(Matthew 26:52)

“I have not come to destroy sinners, but to save them.
I am calling you to take up the Cross—
I command you to love your enemies,
even those who appear to be My enemies,
just as I loved you while you were My enemies.

“If you do not abide in My love,
you will not know when you hinder Me.
If you do not embrace the Cross,
you will not know when you have become
an enemy of the Cross.

“Put down the sword, My people!
I am warning you for your sake!”

Third time is a charm.  A real, relevant post to end the day!  Thank you for your patience. ;)  This is what I intended to post here today.

I began writing this a couple weeks ago.  As things were heating up toward another armed conflict between my country and the Middle East, with possible ramifications for Israel, I decided to hold off on publishing.  I deeply desire peace for Syria, and Israel, and all nations.  With so much war and unrest in so many places it’s hard to read the news.  While in hope of a diplomatic solution of some kind, I submit this subject:

For the Love of Israel
Tonight I am sitting in a vacant house that my husband and I own. We have spent two weeks getting it ready to put on the market, but we lived here enough years to have two children and enjoy many times sharing hospitality with good friends. It is hard to let this house go thinking of all the memories. Today I was also remembering when our Hebrew Roots congregation went out in the front yard at night to blow shofars at the new moon. Okay, so we had some weird times too. But all the crazy fun times began for us, with a love for Israel.

How I Fell in Love
I was not raised in the type of church that believed Israel still had Chosen People status because we believed we did.  I never gave the modern state of Israel much thought and could never figure out what the big deal was about everyone wanting to go to the “Holy Land.” For us a pilgrimage of worth might be the house our prophet was born in, or the very first church building used by our denomination.

One day, years after leaving the late 1800′s variety of American-inspired “Chosen People” for good, I felt a desire to read the book of Ezekiel. Then I read other Old Testament prophets, majors and minors. I became very excited at the discovery of many things I had never seen before regarding the Jewish people and promises of their restoration. I began to wonder if the modern state of Israel was the beginning of these prophecies being fulfilled. Wouldn’t you know, many other people had exactly the same speculations!

I immersed myself in the study of the history of the Jewish people, and then of the history of the modern state. I had always felt a solidarity with the Holocaust victims from childhood because we also kept the Jewish Sabbath in our church, and were taught we would suffer a similar fate for it one day. I had read more World War II books than I could count. But now I wanted to know all about them as a people, past and present.

My husband, not so much interested in Israel, but in the Torah itself as a way of life, was also being drawn to identify with Jewishness as a path of life and worship. As our testimony here shares in far too much tedious detail, we did.

We began to see the Hebrew way as given to a tribal nation thousands of years ago, as the only way. We believed God ordained this forever and for always, and that any who would be obedient to follow Him in this were also Jewish. Judaism itself does teach this. Upon conversion you are as much a part of the nation as one natural born. This is the way the Old Testament teaches, to be circumcised and joined in obedience to Yahweh as explained by Moses, is to become a Hebrew.

Many people in the movement talked of moving to Israel. I studied about kibbutz life and nothing sounded more idyllic to me. I looked into ways to immigrate, and found full conversion to Judaism, proof of ethnic lineage, or joining the IDF were the options, all of which seemed problematic. But my now “Jewish” heart, longed to be in the Land. As many Christians believe, we thought by blessing Israel, we would be blessed and also have front-row privileges to end time events and insider information on current world affairs. That’s pretty intoxicating stuff.

Meeting a Real Jewish Zionist
An Israeli man came to speak to our little tiny group. I’m sure he had bigger fish to fry with much larger pockets, but he was kind to come and speak for us. The way we prepared for his arrival you would have thought the Queen of England was coming to town.  He was running a publicity campaign for the Temple Mount and the WHOLE land of Israel as described to Abraham, to be occupied by Jews. Any concession at all to give up an inch of land was condemned as evil and against the will of God. Any Israeli or American leader willing to make compromises for peace was in danger of a curse we believed, and he fueled our zealous convictions. We did not care to speak to him of his Messiah, but he did make many diplomatic patronizing remarks toward the idea of the Messiah – as he was accustomed to speaking in Christian circles. He also had amazing war stories that filled us with admiration and a sense of being on “God’s side”. Maybe the miracles were true. One thing I’ve learned about miracles – they mean God loves us. They don’t always mean we are necessarily right. He was a sweet, charismatic man and I have no reason to doubt the depth of his convictions.

Those Obstructing God’s Will
As far as Palestinians were concerned, we had our talking points. We saw them as one big mob of hate-filled terrorists, not people. Not an ounce of concern or compassion for them found a place in our hearts, nor did we ever hear any of them speak about their situation. They didn’t matter to us. They didn’t belong there, and the sooner they were dealt with the better, although most of us had the realization that we would have to wait for the 2nd coming to see this problem solved. Seriously. I wonder what Jesus we were expecting?

Now, several years later with a new heart, open ears and eyes, I feel compelled to address this issue which is so closely linked not just to the Hebrew Roots Movement, but much of evangelical Christianity as well. I have questioned myself hundreds of times, “Why I should write these things?” They are hard. But it comes down to love. Love for Israel. All of it.

Honesty is Loving
Before I begin to share the hard things, there are several guaranteed reactions to anyone who would dare to look at this situation from any alternate angles. I know, because I used to have the same violent knee jerks so that I nearly bruised my own chin. Calmly place both feet on the floor, and hear my words.

*I LOVE JEWISH PEOPLE no matter where they live.
*I don’t wish to see Israel wiped off the map.
*I am deeply moved by the fear they live in and am well aware of the threats surrounding them daily, and the great suffering they have experienced past and present.
* I could care less about the accusations of conspiracies and evil empires, because I have to include my own country in that discussion. This isn’t about blame.

Now that we have that clearly stated, I desire to speak with honesty. If at any point you feel your feet rising from the floor, please refer again to the list above.

Christians and Israel
I speak now to those who call themselves by the term Christian. This would imply that you believe not only IN Jesus, but that you believe Him. I have been amazed at how easy I have in the past skimmed over very clear, direct teaching as “does not apply” to me. As He has gradually worked on my heart, I am constantly shocked at things I thought were okay that are completely out of line with how He is describing His Kingdom and how it works. This is an ongoing process for all of us who seek to follow Him. This isn’t just a matter of reading words on a page and managing to integrate my thinking from hypocrisy to honesty, but deep heart changes that are incredibly painful, yet freeing at the same time.

Many Christians, especially in the United States, feel a deep affinity for Israel and Jewish people. This isn’t wrong in any way, except when it creates the situation where we only love one side, and God loves both. When we cross over from loyalty to Jesus to blind, unbending loyalty to any earthly, fallen thing, no matter how good we perceive it, we create for ourselves a conflict of interest. This can happen with countless “good” things. The Biblical term for this is idolatry.

Just as we tend to see all Palestinians as terrorists, I think Christians also want to see Jewish people in a stereotype as well. We see them through the lens of the stories of David and Moses, and enjoy the common ground that we both accept the first edition of the Holy Book.   Stereotypes generally lead us astray from seeing the diversity in a people.  Israel is extremely diverse, maybe even more so than the United States in some ways.  I saw recently that the Ultra-orthodox were in a conflict with the government over the mandatory military service.  The article stated that they had large families and lived mostly on the welfare system as they believed their duty was to study the Torah and spend their time in the yeshiva.  They were exempt from military service because they did not believe in the use of force, but rather trusted in God.  I found great irony that this is the opposite perspective of most conservative Christian Zionist, on all issues.

Putting any and all end-time prophecy interpretations aside, because I honestly don’t know or care who is right or wrong about those things – it doesn’t change the foundational Way of the Jesus we follow – and that is to love. We love Him, each other, and our enemies. This “insanity” is the only real proof we have in this hate-filled world, and in my opinion, just as powerful as any miracle working you can manage to conjure up. Maybe more so. Pretty hard to fake loving your enemy. Funny thing happened as I began to listen to these people I had written off. God filled my heart with so much love for them too, just like He gave me for the Jewish people years before. I can’t even explain this love. It’s just there.

The Bottom side of the Security Fence
Imagine for a moment that the Palestinians don’t understand God wanted the Jews to have all the land back at this point in time. You can understand the confusion. (There are those on both sides who want ALL the land, and those who want peace.) Imagine yourself in their shoes. We’d be finding some resistance fighters in our own ranks don’t you think? What’s all this I hear in the last few years about “Don’t tread on me?” Humans of any race or religion don’t take well to being pushed off their land, losing their livelihoods, having travel restricted, or living in fear that any moment you could be arrested or your house taken over for use by an army at their whim. Or shot in random gunfire. It doesn’t sound like a recipe for peace to me. For many on both sides, peace isn’t the goal. Only total victory will satisfy.  But there are some on both sides as well who believe in non-violent solutions.

The situation in Israel is complicated, dangerous, and without any clear solutions. Many in Israel do not believe that meeting any Palestinian demands will bring peace. Palestinians do not believe Israel wants peace as long as  they continue to build settlements in their territory, which creates the need for more buffer zones, and more confiscated land and difficulty with travel because of checkpoints and security fences.

I realize there is a very real threat of violence that Israel lives under daily. But their military response has been a heavy boot that is hard to imagine and is never talked about in my social circles. I truly believed in the past that any negative story at all about Israel was a lie and propaganda from the other side. The truth is, both sides have plenty of that to go around in any conflict.

Because I don’t live there, I am obviously not qualified in the least to speak of this one way or the other, but I am thankful to have found honesty and truth, from Israelis themselves. Not all Israel’s citizens are comfortable with the way things are. Many are now speaking out about the human rights abuses the IDF routinely displays toward the Palestinian people.

I admire these truth-tellers, because truth is always risky and it takes a lot of courage to speak against what everyone accepts as normal. My country is very severe to anyone who would dare speak out about the abuses of military and government, as we have seen so vividly in the last few years. Please understand I’m not on a witch hunt here. I am sickened by what has been done under the banner of my own flag as well, and what continues to happen. I have been writing about that in other places as this is not a political blog. As I heard one saying recently, “There is no flag big enough to cover the killing of innocent people”. Especially not my flag.

Breaking the Silence
I don’t remember how or where I ran across this group, but their facebook page left me feeling ill and in tears.  I have gleaned information from different sources, but this one by far has been the most inspiring.  They are a group of former IDF members who have chosen to not remain silent about what they have seen, heard, and done. They also share current news stories of related items of interest. One of the founding members, Noam Chayut, wrote a book called, The Girl Who Stole My Holocaust – A Memoir. I identified with it deeply because the author is telling his story of “waking up”. Anyone who has been through that will recognize the process of gradually seeing things as they are, and the pivotal moments when your cotton candy structures dissolve and you are left ideologically homeless in a world of ideas.

One thing I can also relate to as an American is the contradiction between the good-guy persona, in this author’s case, “the most moral army in the world”, and the reality of human rights abuses as an accepted practice. Most of these actions are not taken as a direct intervention to any threat, but rather as a way to break a people psychologically and keep them in a state of fear and submission. He details the strategy to destroy the terror infrastructure as follows:

  1. Exposure (razing – uprooting trees and flattening buildings)

  2. Targeted Prevention (extrajudicial execution)

  3. Show of Presence (humiliation, intimidation, vandalism)

  4. Neighbor Procedure (using a random unarmed bystander as a human shield in order to enter a Palestinian house)

  5. Passer-by Procedure (same thing, after “neighbor procedure” was ruled illegal by Israel’s High Court of Justice)

  6. Searches (entering homes and damaging their contents)

  7. Deterrent Fire (opening fire indiscriminately in all directions)

  8. Making them pay the price (revenge, letting off steam and collective punishment)

  9. Mapping (invading the last vestige of privacy in the refugee camps: entering every home, drawing the layout of the rooms, listing the names of the inhabitants, scanning their mobile phones, checking out family relations…)

And so “the Palestinian population is to learn that terrorism doesn’t pay.” p. 97

He begins the story with his childhood and growing up with the Holocaust deeply embedded in the psyche with the mantra, “Never forget, never forgive.” He traveled to Europe and was deeply moved by the museums and remnants of that horrific nightmare. Yearly celebrations kept it all fresh in everyone’s minds. In spite of his excelling in music, he chose to join the IDF as a combatant because of his admiration for the war heroes who had preceded his generation.

In one eventful moment as an IDF soldier, looking into the eyes of a young Palestinian girl who saw nothing redeeming in his smile toward her, an awakening happened that took years to fully acknowledge. Here is how he describes it:

“She took from me the belief that I was avenging my people’s destruction by absolute evil, that I was fighting absolute evil. For that girl, I embodied absolute evil… And ever since, I have been without my Holocaust. Ever since, everything in my life has taken on new meaning: the sense of belonging is blurred, pride has gone missing, belief has weakened, regret has grown strong, forgiveness has been born.”

Forgiveness. That is the way out isn’t it? What we refuse to forgive, we tend to repeat. As with fathers and sons, so with nations. This book is hard to read but yet hard to put down. I am sparing you the graphic details. Only that the author states from the time he went to his first post as a soldier in Gaza, to the publishing of this memoir in English, 3088 Palestinians had been killed who took no part in any combat action.

As with most truth-telling, one of the first objections raised is that the atrocities described are exceptional incidents and in no way characterize a regular pattern of behavior. While of course there are many good things to praise, the good things do not take away from the necessity to evaluate other patterns at work. As Chayut began collecting testimonies for Breaking the Silence he relates this discovery:

I gathered testimonies, and listened to others gathered by my friends. In the first months, I was stunned by the dimensions of violence and humiliation they revealed. The excuse of “rotten apples” within the “moral occupation” cart disappeared  In its stead, a whole system of organized evil was revealed….These were the stories of frightened boys who commanded checkpoints, enforced curfews, and patrolled streets and markets. These were the stories of the indifference and numbness they developed there, which swallowed up their own personalities.”

This is when the aggressor becomes the victim of his own war. So many in our military have suffered the same emotional damage and our veterans are committing suicide in record numbers. Fighting terror with terror solves nothing and hurts everyone it touches in some way.  American Christians need to come to terms with this in their own country as much as seeing the reality of it anywhere else.  Conservative Christians have historically been quick to join the war band-wagons, unless of course it is suggested by an unpopular president.  This comes from a deep-seated patriotism that preaches “God and Country.”  Not many seem to ask the question, “What does God THINK about my country right now and its actions towards our perceived enemies?”  As a Christian, these questions should be thought out in light of the words of Jesus, not our nationalism or patriotism.

But this is not about politics or who decides policies. This is about love being the higher way. I recently saw a video of an Israeli man (on TED Talks) who has taken it on himself via the internet to send love messages to the people of Iran, saying he did not want a war with them, and many others joined in. Then there came many messages back from Iran to Israel with the same desires. What if love was stronger than fear?

I will end this portion with a few videos of Israeli IDF voices from Breaking the Silence. And I strongly recommend getting Noam Chayut’s book. In the next post I will talk about the Palestinian side of the equation (another book and movie review), and what a genuine loving Christian support for the region might look like, no matter what your end-time scenario includes.

http://www.breakingthesilence.org.il/testimonies/database/838448

 

OOOPS!

This is called a big internet “blush”.  The post that just went out “Feeling Poorly” was supposed to be published on my OTHER WordPress blog.

 

It has nothing to do whatsoever with the content on this one.  It is a more ‘private’ place intended to journal my adventures in other areas of life.  The post has been marked Private and will be reposted on my other site.

 

I apologize to my subscribers for the lack of paying attention.  This post will also be deleted after a reasonable amount of time.

Carry on and thank you. :)

 

 

I have no idea where this saying came from but I found it swimming around in my head today after we went to a public pool.  My younger set of children started begging to go swimming as soon as the wearing of shorts commenced.  We live in Texas so they have been carrying on for weeks and weeks about how much better life could be IF ONLY they could go swimming in a real pool as opposed to the lawn sprinkler.  I held off for as long as I could because I don’t enjoy public swimming for various reasons not appropriate to discuss here.  In spite of my many objections, I do know they need to learn to swim for their own safety and enjoyment.  After looking at swimming lesson fees, it appeared I would have to be the teacher.

Last week we had met at a splash park with our home school Meetup group.  I love those places because they have loads of fun while I stay fully clothed and dry.  Our group took over a picnic table for all our gear and we sat around having a great visit while the kids played.  As I looked around the park, I observed something very normal, but sad to me.  Our table consisted of all Anglo women, another all Latino, and yet another all Asian.  We had cloistered ourselves into our own little ethnic groups while the children were playing all together in the park.  I realize this is a normal, comfort-zone situation, and often caused by language barriers too.  But what if we never sit at someone else’s table or invite someone to ours?  What we can’t see between those tables are the things that truly divide us;  fear, pride, misunderstanding, long-held but still-festering grievances.  If we never talk or form relationships with others outside our own social groups, how will we ever learn to understand one another, forgive, or love like Jesus asked us to do?  I longed for there to be a way to connect the tables but instead I sat there feeling helpless to change it.

But back to the swimming pool.  What is really cool about swimming (no pun intended) is that we are all in there together without tables for people to segregate themselves to.  And what is there to be shy about when you are already in a bathing suit?  Nothing really.  Two children asked my kids if they could borrow their floatation toys, so we began to share, which sparked a friendship between them.  Kids bond instantly and easily.  Soon they were asking me if I could teach them to swim too!  I almost expected a parent to come rescue their children from the crazy white lady who is shorter than a 4th grader, but no one intervened.  As we left I saw them running over to their mother who was not swimming.  I went to her and said how much the children enjoyed playing and that if they were able, we would try to make it the same time every week (way out of my comfort zone).  She seemed very friendly and open to the idea, and I thanked God for providing a way to break down walls and open doors with others.  I hope to see them again next week, and that she doesn’t instead resolve to avoid the pool on Wednesday for the rest of the summer! :)  I have such a deep burden for racial reconciliation and sometimes as an Anglo person, I don’t feel like there is anything I can do that won’t be taken as insincere, naive, or offensive.  And often I know it will be, because I have much still to learn.  It is so important to not assume anything.  I speak in general terms here, but each person must be seen as they are – a unique individual who may or may not fit anyone’s generalizations.

I was not prepared for the level of racism I found when I moved to Texas many years ago.  Then sadly, I became accustomed to it over time.  I had never met blacks who had so much bitterness toward white people where I grew up, or white people with so much blind bigotry.  I found it frightening and intimidating, so I decided I would do what most of the white people in Texas do – keep my distance and stay in my safe white world.  I ended up living in a small, rural town for 18 years (for economic reasons) that I heard had a notorious history for keeping out unwanted people of color.  Judging by the demographics, they seem to still have success in that area, except for more recent immigration.  We were blessed to live next to a newly immigrated family and their daughter became like our own as our children were growing up together.  But did I welcome her parents with the same hospitality?  No, I let my own fear of awkwardness keep the space between us.  And I have done this more often than I care to remember.

Today in fact was Juneteenth, a holiday I have truly only heard referred to in mocking ways – in my safe white world.  A few months ago while studying some history with my children, I learned that this holiday marks the date that the Texas slaves were finally told they were free, two and half years after the Emancipation Proclamation had become the law of the land.  I think I had to read it over a few times to make sure I had not misunderstood.  How many generations removed are we from these times of their suffering and our oppression?  How much of it do we both still carry with us?  Thankfully, we can all swim in the same swimming pool, at least.

I saw the water today as a powerful symbol of baptism which creates the stage for our unity in Christ, and the Holy Spirit who makes us one (Living Water) in our resurrected Life.  When we come into the water, we connect!  There is no more need for walls or unforgiveness.  No more need to feel superior, or inferior.  Outside of Him, we are all sitting in our little enclaves of security, scrutinizing one another with disdain and suspicion, or trying to pretend the others don’t really exist at all.  As followers of Jesus, we can lead the way, inviting others to join us in the unifying water of the Spirit.  We may put on the humility of Christ, see ourselves and our history honestly, and choose life and love.

The other factor today of course was the innocence of childhood.  Jesus had so much to say about this too.  Unless we become as little children…  I think I saw a glimmer of the Kingdom today in a swimming pool.

I am not suggesting a rose-colored-glasses course of action of just wanting to see the good and ignore the evil.  Sadly, we see the evil on other sides and refuse to own what lives on our own side.  This invitation is for the Way of the Cross, to lay down our pride, repent, ask forgiveness, and forgive, beginning in the House of God.  Jesus prayed that we would be in unity in our love for Him and each other, “so that the world may believe” that the Father sent Him. (John 17:21)   We often view unbelief in the world with an accusatory attitude when our divisions among ourselves, especially racially, speak more volumes than our evangelism.  When the world sees a people who truly love each other, from the heart, across all barriers of race, age, gender, and denominations (not saying to erase the distinctions – but to embrace the diversity) maybe our gospel would seem more true.  But as it stands, most of our children are growing up to reject that Jesus was real, for many reasons I suspect.  How can we expect the world to believe?

There are other areas of reconciliation I want to write about soon.  I have been putting off these posts for months, because I have been overwhelmed to know where to start, and I’m not past wanting people to like what I say from time to time.  This won’t be easy, but I invite you to come in and enjoy the water.

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