Happy Mother’s Day
“Bring me your night terrors. I will make them stand silent. Give me your fears and I will replace them with pure calm. I will gather your demons and slaughter them one by one. I will empty your heart of stress, anxiety and discord. I will fill it with love, peace and happiness.”
We are lucky to live near one of God’s most beautiful creations. We live close to the beach. For those of you, Dear Readers, who have been on this journey with me for a while know that the beach, particularly Perdido Key is home to me and my family. (See page 21 in the Perdido Key Visitors Guide for my article about home)
The beach is for me like being in church. Not everyone will understand and that’s ok. If you pray and ask God to meet you where you are, he will not let you down. He will be there.
Today we will go to the beach. We will marvel at the beauty of God’s creation. We will sing songs of praise in the car. We will share the love of God with each other. I do not believe that God loves me less for not going to church on his day, but rather choosing to spend the day with my family out in nature that he created. There is nothing in the bible that says Sunday can’t also be a fun day.
Matthew 18:20 “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (NIV)
What’s love got to do with doing Church?
I was asked a fair question recently by a unaware person, nice person, who knew me once upon a time, in another life. She simply asked, “Why do you no longer go to ****** Church?” (Name of church omitted by me to protect the innocent.)
I gave her question some thought. I love my old church family. I still communicate with many of the some people I went to church with, so it wasn’t that I didn’t want to associate with them any more. I still consider myself an Episcopalian in a lot of ways, so it wasn’t the Church big “C” that I was avoiding. My reasons for not settling down with one church was simple really.
One church, one Christianity method of serving God does not have all the answers. Each in their own way put God in a box that they construct with interpretations of the Bible, traditions and human invented rules. They then expect me (and You), dear reader, to fit as a perfect conformed shape to hold that particular box. I am not very pliable for conformity to certain shaped boxes. Therefore I drop said box all too often. I find that I can’t live up to the expectations of what many of the box builders expect. It is better to save them and me the agony of trying to get me to reshape to fit their version of God. I simply walk away. No mention of love there.
I am not one of those Christians that think that only main stream Christianity is the way to serve God. I believe that all religions hold some truth of God and that saying one is better or more true than another is foolish. To say that an all powerful omnipresent God will only use one religion to commune with His human creation is ridiculous. To say that God will only answer to one name is equally arrogant. No mention of love in that. However, I digress….
I am not one of those Christians that say, “ I just don’t like organized religion.” I actually love it. The more structured and Scripture filled the better. I love the singing, praying, and bible dissection. I love the communion with God and fellow humans. I don’t even mind tithing. No, I like church.
I am not one of those Christians who blindly follow a teaching because I learn it in Church, so it must be true. I always take the time to study and research a truth for myself. I don’t like being told how to love God and humans. I don’t like being told that I must serve in certain ways through the church. I hate feeling like less of a Christian if I don’t go to every function or serve on committees. I hate the back biting and politics that come with church membership. Where’s the love in that? However again, I digress…..
I am not one of those Christians who follow a teaching because a preacher said I should. I also don’t like to be told that the message I got from God through my own prayer life was incorrect. Excuse me? It is not our place to judge other humans. God told me to love everyone and you are saying yes but not certain people? No thanks. I will follow what the Bible says and what God says on that one. Let me remind you what the Bible says about that, good Christian….
I believe that love is the number one point of being a Christian. Sharing God’s love by following Christ’s example, however that looks like for you is what makes you a Christian. Not what church you walk in to or not.
(Lori is a novelist and self proclaimed expert on how to be a non traditional, people loving, happy life living Christian. Read more about her here.)
What is marriage? Is it a wedding ceremony and a license? Is it a commitment to love honor and obey? Marriage is defined by Webster’s as the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law or by the rite by which the married status is effected, an intimate or close union. No mention of love.
Marriage existed before any government was organized. For thousands of years, people were getting married without a marriage license. Even today, there are some countries that have no governmental recognition of marriage and no legal requirements for marriage. Government endorsement is usually necessary for certain benefits, however. In American history, up to around the 1920’s, there was no such thing as a marriage license. The states invented them as a way to dictate who could and could not get married. Primarily as a way to stop white people from marrying black people. Still no mention of love.
Some people believe that a man and a woman are married in God’s eyes when they have completed some kind of formal wedding ceremony. There is an event, action, covenant, vow, or proclamation that is recognized as declaring a man and woman to be married. Love may be present, maybe not.
But does the very act of getting married constitute a true partnership? Does connecting yourself to another in the bonds of marriage mean that you are equally respected, loved or wanted?
Though many of my characters that I write choose to get married, I for one do not like what marriage has become in today’s society. It is an institution that gives people carte blanche to dictate what another person can and can’t do. I consider myself an expert on how not to be a spouse and how not to preform life as a married person. I should know I have had three failed marriages. Just as it takes two to make a marriage work it takes two to destroy one as well. I know, I have been there. Usually it plays out that one person gives up sooner in the marital timeline than the other. The vow is broken, hurt happens and loss is felt. Often a marriage dies long before the participants are willing to admit it. How many times have you known people who stayed married for the sake of the children or other reason that is not that they truly liked being together? Notice I said marriage not love.
Love is a choice. Love is a promise to cherish the other person.
You choose to love or not. There are couples who are more devoted to each other without a marriage license than others who have been married for years. It is society that has conditioned us to believe that those who are in committed relationships but are not legally married are somehow not valid partnerships. Somehow we are taught to believe that two people can’t be devoted if they do not get married or we think maybe they don’t love each other, trust each other, or care about each other enough to get married.
Marriage as ordained by God is a spiritual connection that is grounded in faith not government. Faith in God, faith in each other and faith in your choice to be together. It is not based on the human’s faulty idea of marriage that is a contract and dictated by social norms. It is the choice and promise of commitment to that one other person that is important. Love and devotion do not require a piece of paper or even a ceremony. Ultimately, that is between the couple and God. Only God knows our true heart (1 John 3:20).
A marriage license is just a piece of paper. If there is no love there is no point.
Why do we do it? We know it is ridiculous, yet we go there every time. Let someone say something positive or negative, we over analyze and pick it apart. Let that someone be our spouse or significant other and we go in to overthinking over drive. We examine methodically and in detail every word and action, typically for purposes of our assumed interpretation.
Stop it. It is deadly to happiness, peace and love.
It makes no difference if what we know is the truth. If it doesn’t fit in our preconceived reality we will think it to death to make it fit. It never ends up resembling the truth. Oh, it may have tiny similarities of the truth, but it will not save you from the anxiety that will result.
There is only one cure, one solution to correct or stop your over thinking. Communicate openly with your person. Let them tell you the truth. Now here’s where it gets difficult, trust them. Don’t give the trust lip service. Really and truly trust them. What if they are lying to you? So what? If they are not telling you the truth, the truth will come out. It always does. Trusting them frees you from the demon of over thinking.
Love and peace will follow.
This has been a tough weekend. We said goodbye, we worked through some dark thoughts, and we experienced stress. I am almost certain that you, dear reader, had some similar trying days recently. Oh, I am not psychic, it’s called being human.
Today I have decided not to worry. I have decided to focus on love. I have decided to just be thankful for today. I know that the future holds some tough stuff that I will have to deal with too. It also holds amazing miracles I know is coming.
Again, I am not psychic, I know what I know.
I know that God almighty, the maker of all things, the holder of sparrows, the painter of sunsets, the curator of lilies, the feeder of the thousands, the drier of tears, the keeper of souls, the forgiver of sin…..and my Lord will give me all that I need. Nothing can take me from Him.
So, I will not worry or even think about tomorrow and what it might bring, I will be thankful for today.
Do Not Worry
25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?
28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
It is no secret that I am a different kind of Christian. I am transparent about what I believe. My Jesus is not like the picture of Jesus that is hanging in the Sunday school classroom. My Jesus does not have silky red and white robes with perfectly combed hair, a perfect completion, and smiling looking up heavenly with crystal blue eyes. My Jesus is dirty from his travels on the dusty Jerusalem roads. He is battered, bloody, poor, tired, thirsty…a fugitive criminal.
What would happen if he walked in chose a pew for himself and took a seat next to Mrs. Never Skip Church in her Sunday best dress and hat? She would smile at him and say good morning, I doubt it. My guess is she would scowl and slide over away from Him. When we attend church, we expect to see a certain group of people around us in the pews. Everyone dressed in his or her good clothes nodding at the pastor. Children listening and not crying disturbing the rest of us. Would Jesus be comfortable in your church family?
It is so easy to attend church on Sunday and walking out feeling good about ourselves. What good Christians we are for not hitting the snooze and staying home. Being a Christian is more than a Sunday and maybe a Wednesday occurrence.
Being a Christian is a daily existence. It is a living breathing part of your life. It is Jesus living through you. The real Jesus, not the made up good-looking one, but the Savior who died for our sins.
To be like Jesus we have to get out of the pew and into the world. We have to go and serve those in need. Many of us do lip service to this effect. Are you opening your doors to the homeless man on the corner? Come in, praise God with us, and let us feed your body and soul. Are you paying medical bills for the pregnant teenager in your youth group? More likely, the parishioners are gossiping about her behind her back and are looking down at her parents for raising a promiscuous daughter. It cannot be that your youth director chose not to discuss abstinence with the teenagers because some parents my get upset. No that’s not it.
As a church, Christians have to get out of that comfortable place where Sunday services feel safe and mundane. We need to be confrontational to the issues of our community. We have to get out there and touch people for Jesus. We have to feed the multitude, step in front of the stone throwers, wash dirty feet, and heal the hurting. We have to agree to change what we can and love everyone.
(Also published on Medium at https://medium.com/@loriogara)
In his famous poem about death, Henry Scott Holland wrote,
“Death is nothing at all.
It does not count.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
Nothing has happened.”
Death is just a change in being and a slight change in location. There is no such thing as an after life, it is a continuation of life in a different dimension. Heaven and hell is closer that what you know. It is presumed that when a person dies that it is the physical condition that is responsible, but it is actually the reverse. The soul of the person leaves the body first and then the body, which cannot continue without it expires. Where does that soul go?
The Bible mentions that there is a veil separating the earthly world from the spiritual one. It was witnessed by the disciples when Jesus went on the mount to have a conversation with Moses and Elijah. Elijah and Moses existed on earth 546 years apart, they met in heaven. Since the two men were already dead, Jesus transformed himself in to his spiritual form to meet with them. (Luke 9) Various people have been said to have entered heaven while still alive, including Enoch, Elijah and Jesus himself, after his resurrection. Thus death is not a permanent state, but a shifted state of life.
There are countless stories of humans seeing their relatives who have passed on as if they were sitting in front of them alive. Ask one of those people and they will tell you in no uncertain terms that heaven is a real place that is close. It is not some place above our heads and hell is not in the ground.
If death is just a different state of being, why then do we grieve when a loved one passes through that door? We should celebrate their transition. What we grieve is not what the person is gaining, what we grieve is our loss of them. We can’t see past our own sadness and selfish want to keep them with us. We should try to remember, they are close by, just in the other room. If we could move the veil, we would see them.
As I write this my family is keeping vigil over my grandmother. She was one of the major influences in my life who taught me about love, God and Jesus. She said to me, “Don’t be sad when someone dies. Be happy. Even the angels rejoice when someone dies.” She taught me that heaven is my true home. Not this earthly realm of pain and sorrow. She and my other grandparents, made it a priority to teach me about spiritual things. They also encouraged me to keep studying truth. A legacy I am passing on to my children and grandchildren.
I am sad that I can’t be with her as she takes the journey home, however, I know where she is headed I will be there too one day. I will hold on to the memories of her, not the sick and old her, but the vibrant, Jesus loving her. I will continue to honor her memory by loving God and seeking truth. When she passes on to heaven, I will try to be happy and rejoice with the angels that she is with Jesus who she loves more than life and more than all of us, and she loves us a lot.