love and grace.

I’m currently reading Rumors of God by Darren Whitehead and Jon Tyson. Whitehead is one of the teaching pastors at my church and I had the pleasure of hearing Tyson speak at my church and a three-day retreat. When Tyson spoke, I felt like he was speaking directly to me. Never have I completely agreed, related, and understood a pastor as much as him. This book reaches out to me even more. I feel like it was written just for me.
What really struck me was one of the stories they shared in which a protester yelled out at a Christian group, ”Aren’t you supposed to be defined by love? Where is your grace?”

“Aren’t you supposed to be defined by love? Where is your grace?”

I wholeheartedly agree with this statement. One of the things I struggle with as someone who is trying to grow as a Christian, is the reputation that much hatred within the religion has built up. I know that Jesus wants us to love others as they are without judgement. This is how I want to live. This is what I believe. Yet, many of my non-Christian friends abhor religion because of the negativity that conservative Christians have brought upon certain members of society. They are all about the fire and brimstone, not the love and light. Too many people have stood on street corners, preaching hell instead of preaching love. I can understand why this would scare people away. It made me turn away, too. Years later, I was finally exposed to the light and love of God. My heart turned around. I only wish my friends could do the same. I guess I just have to pray for them and continue to show them light and love.

a devoted December.

To get myself to really understand and appreciate the Christmas season, I’ve started reading three different bible plans on my iPhone application (YouVersion’s Bible). One of the plans is about discovering the origin of certain Christmas carols. While reading Day 3 of this particular plan (which covers Luke 10:41-42), the devotional mentioned how Christmas can seem like a hectic time of year with numerous obligations and gifts and commercials and decorations. It reminded me to take the opportunity to enjoy the time I have with friends and family, not worry about the things I have to do but the enjoy the people I’m with, and to be present where I am. That is what’s better and that’s how I will have a merry little Christmas. It then asks, “What are some things you need to take off the list to make yourself become more like Mary? What are the better things that you choose to be a part of this Christmas?”

I started really thinking about this. I want this Christmas to be wonderfully warm and cheerful. I’m already against the extreme materialism and consumerism that surfaces during December, but I want something more than just making my own cards and homemade cookies. I want to really spend my time with loved ones or volunteer and serve somewhere. I mainly want to really focus on spending time with my husband; however, this extends to other friends and family.

Last night, we had a lovely evening eating dinner at a friend’s house and decorating his house/tree for the holidays. We ate around the table, shared memories, laughed, talked about the future, set up the tree(s), put up the lights, played holiday music, and just really enjoyed each other’s company. It was grand!

Today, I had the chance to give. One of my co-workers had the idea of donating her extra clothes to three of the girls in our classroom. I added in a couple of my favorite shirts (she shops very often, but I rarely shop and have given away almost all my unused clothes) and we surprised the girls with a small pile of clothes to choose from. They were so thrilled! They went through the clothes and picked out items, trying them on and modeling to us. One of the girls remarked, “I’m so grateful for you guys!” My heart burst upon hearing that. I am thankful my coworker had that wonderful idea. I also love that I was able to pass the clothes along to people I already knew that were in need. I’d rather they have the clothes than me. I already have more than enough.

God has been really good to me.  I’m so blessed.

The Religion of Hate.

Two weeks ago, my friend Adwait wrote a guest post here: Thought for Food: Attachment. Last week, I mentioned that I was letting go from this blog a little bit. Letting go also means I’ll be sharing this space with Adwait occasionally. Is that cool? Let us know what you think! That said, here’s his potentially controversial post for today.

You’ve probably noticed that Pastor Jones of Gainesville, Florida is in the news again. What would Jesus have to say about his actions? I certainly don’t think he would award him a medal. Yes, 9/11 was tragic, very much so. Senseless violence that resulted in loss of innocent life. There is absolutely no way for us to try and make sense of what happened on that day. It’s not possible. But, for our part, resorting to vengeful, hateful and irresponsible deeds like those of our good Pastor here will not help us achieve anything. It will not solve our problems. Neither will it help end the meaningless violence being carried out in the name of religion the world over.

Obviously, since he lives in America, Jones enjoys the right to say and do as he pleases. But the world is not going to be oblivious to his actions. People take notice. Sentiments will be hurt. More fuel will be added to the ‘fight-fire-with-fire’ mentality. More anger, more protests, more flag burning, more threats and more loss of life. By the way, what about Pastor Jones’ congregation? Do they also hate just like he does? I shudder to think how far this has spread its wings. On the other hand, one might ask, why single him out? Why not call out the perpetrators who started this mess in the first place? Well, how far back in time shall we go? Religiously motivated violence has existed for centuries. When will this ever end? When are we going to stop hating and killing in the name of religion? It seems rather counterproductive, does it not? That’s not the point of religion.

No matter what his views are, Pastor Jones is just like you and I. Perhaps he grew up in an environment that was a breeding ground for narrow-mindedness and hatred. So it doesn’t seem too farfetched to think that had you or I been in his shoes we might have formed opinions similar to his. After all, underneath our skins and inside our bodies we all have the same heart, the same organs and the same mind. Our thoughts and opinions can easily be twisted and bent any which way. Just like the words in sacred texts that are misinterpreted and abused.  So there is nothing that makes one person ‘more special’ than the next. Not religion, not race, not the size of your TV, not your Armani tuxedos, and not your imported caviar.

Look, we all want the same thing out of life. We all want to be happy and free from suffering. Whatever our beliefs, they are supposed to help guide us down that path. Our faith is simply the means to an end. Every religion at its core teaches brotherhood, to love and care for one another and to respect others. Every religion is rooted in the same basic belief that we are all equally capable of leading meaningful and happy lives. But instead of focusing on what should bring us together we continually find ways to highlight differences. Religion is supposed to benefit humanity and not drive us to the brink of our own destruction.

The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, believes that “The purpose of all the major religious traditions is not to construct big temples on the outside, but to create temples of goodness and compassion inside, in our hearts.” Sadly, given the current state of affairs and our mindset in general, this only seems like wishful thinking.

Will we live to see the day when religion is no longer used as an excuse for violence and hatred?

Can we truly bring ourselves to change the way we perceive things we do not fully understand?