Thoughts from the Sukkah 2019/5780 Day 6

Sometimes I feel shame and I haven’t even done anything wrong. Nothing at all to feel guilty about and I’m over in a corner beating myself up.

My children were raised without shame. Well, as without shame as parents who live with shame can raise children. It’s amazing to see how confident and strong and sure of themselves they are. They don’t sit around second guessing themselves.

Going back to the suit for a second . . . turned out he didn’t even need the full suit for the event last night. Just slacks. We were driving and talking about this and I said something to the effect of, “Ugh! I should have just spent the time making the slacks first and then you would have had them to wear. I’m so sorry.”

The response stopped me flat . . . “How would you have known? We only learned today. Don’t beat yourself up for things that are out of your control. That isn’t productive. If you want to feel bad about something stick to thing that you knew about and had control over.”

He’s right.

Shame is paralysing. It’s defining. It’s the undercurrent of identity that flows no matter how accomplished we are, No matter how much good we are doing. No matter how old we are, or how smart we are, or how rich we are. There isn’t enough to drown out the shame if that’s what you’re mired in. It’s why there are sayings like, “Money can’t buy happiness.” No matter how much you have, if shame is defining you, you won’t be happy. Period.

So how do we get rid of shame? How do we deal with this soul-sucking thing?

We can’t apologise for it. We can’t make amends for it. We can’t silence it by trying to drown it out. So how do we get rid of shame? How do we deal with this soul-sucking thing?

Part of it requires forgiveness. Whether we can identify the person who spoke shame into our lives or not (let’s be honest, it’s likely not a single person) we can choose to forgive them. The reality is they were filled with shame if they were sharing it. We can also forgive ourselves for allowing it in. True, we didn’t know any different – that’s why we forgive ourselves.

Then it requires a conscious and intentional choice to no longer give it power. This is where the hard work comes in.

When that voice inside starts speaking shame, consciously speak over it with truth. If it’s a really loud voice try speaking truth out loud.

Talk to people in your life who are safe and understand how shame works. If you have a group of people who can remind each other when you’re spiralling that it’s not something you need to do, that’s real friendship. I assure you my son’s words to me in the car snapped me right out of my shame spiral. When my children were little and they started to express shame I would say to them the same things I say to adults who start speaking it . . . “That is not truth. You are not (fill in the blank). You are an amazing person who is going to learn from this experience and know to make better choices going forward. (or who is not responsible for how this turned out, or whatever the truth is.)”

The reality is we’re all doing the best we can. Learn from the mistakes. Celebrate the victories. Rejoice with each other over all of the hard work we’re investing to get this life done right.

Eventually, the more you wrestle with your shame and refuse to let it win, the quicker you spot people coming at you with shame. The earlier you see the manipulators and abusers and toxic people who use shame as their primary weapon to control you. It doesn’t matter if their goals are noble or not, if their tool is shame you don’t want them around you. Shut that down fast. Recently I blocked 3 people on facebook within 24 hours who came at me with shame in different discussions. Two were strangers and after engaging to the level that I was willing I simply blocked them. The third person was someone I was facebook friends with but didn’t know in real life and the first time I posted something they didn’t like they called me out with straight-forward shame. I gave them two chances to change their approach and then they was gone. I refuse to give shame a platform in my life anymore.

It’s taken me a long time to get here though. I still have to threaten to block the shame voice in my head on the regular. I can shut down others quicker because I realise that letting them go on just emboldens my own shame voice and it’s hard enough taking it on in it’s weakened state!

It does help when I can encourage others who are wrestling with shame. Not hard to find because most everyone is struggling with this issue. It’s why we all need to be kind to each other, assign a positive intent, and have each other’s backs. We’ve got to stick together. I think it’s one of the reasons we were created to live in community. When we get it right, it’s beautiful.

Thoughts from the Sukkah 2019/5780 Day 5

Sometimes when you’re abused you feel guilty – maybe you allowed yourself to participate in something you know is wrong. At least that’s how you perceive it – with or without the suggestion of the abuser – and unless someone challenges that it’s easy to think it’s your responsibility to fix it.

This is especially true if the abuse involved sexual activity. Especially in hyper religious contexts.

But it happens with other types of abuse too.

“If you say one more word I’m going to hit you . . . . ” and you don’t shut up.

“If you do X you will get a spanking. . . ” and you do X.

He hit you but, “It’s okay, it’s my fault. I made him mad.”

And somehow you’re feeling guilty and apologise to your abuser.

Make no mistake – no matter what you did, you did not deserve abuse.

Abuse is always wrong. Make no mistake – no matter what you did, you did not deserve abuse. And abusers rely on shame to get away with their abuse. So even if you did something “wrong” you bear no guilt for the abuse – the abuser does.

It’s also important to note that abuse is never an accident. No one accidentally rapes someone. No one accidentally slips a body part into a child’s sexual organs. No one accidentally beats another person. The abuser is actually enabled by their own shame – where they should feel guilt and take responsibility and change their behaviour and make amends, they wallow in shame and believe that doing these things is who they are and there’s nothing they can do to change it. It’s a shame cycle where they often abuse themselves and vow to never do it again, causing the “honeymoon period” of the abuse dynamic. They may in fact feel very badly about what they’ve done – but until they do the hard work of change they will continue to abuse. Until they deal head on with the reality of their behavior and choices they won’t make changes.

Abuse is sometimes described as a “dance.” It’s said that it takes two to dance – even this dance. Shame is not the answer – it’s the music that plays in the background for the dancers.

Accountability is vital for change. Personal accountability and holding the other person accountable. It requires outside help – voices that can speak into the situation and point out where the abuse is happening, and advise on how to respond. If you could fix the situation yourself it would already be fixed! There are great resources, there are people qualified to walk you through it, and there is a need to commit to walking a path of hard truth.

Those who have walked away from abuse gain a very important skill . . . they can recognise it when they see it again.

There is a reason that so many who have experienced abuse are under very intense stress since the 2016 election. Those who have walked away from abuse gain a very important skill . .. they can recognise it when they see it again.

Trump

McConnell

Kavanaugh

Graham

Sessions

So many who have been nominated and not approved, or nominate and approved, or hired and fired, or put in provisionally, etc.

Abusers manipulate, threaten, control, and benefit from the abuse. They are con men. And when someone who has danced that dance of abuse tells you that someone is an abuser, pay attention. If you can’t see it, you might be the one being conned.

Thoughts from the Sukkah 2019/5780 Day 4

Last night I slept hard and today I woke up with a sense of relief that I wasn’t going to spend another whole day working on the suit. That is the relief of making the right choice about how to handle something. The effort and energy would have been very well spent if they were going to result in a beautiful suit finished in tine for the event. Since acknowledging that the deadline is unrealistic I’m choosing to enjoy my week off doing other things I enjoy.

I’m also thinking on the fact that sometimes I get stuck in something and don’t realise I’m stuck until it feels so uncomfortable that I have to acknowledge it. I think a lot of us are that way. One thing I’ve been working on is more accurately valuing the time it takes to do a project in the valuation of my work. It means I’ve been charging more appropriate prices for the work that I do for people. At first I felt shame – but I’ve cast that off too.

What’s been challenging has been struggling financially over the years and the shame that is heaped on you by society, strangers, and eventually yourself. The pervasive idea is that if you worked hard enough and were worthy you wouldn’t need help – you would be self sustaining. What this doesn’t address is that the increasing majority of our country is the “working poor.” Meaning . . . they have a job (at least one – more often multiple jobs) and are working hard and still not making enough money to survive.

So the blame game shifts – they should get educated and get a better job. But many have! The better jobs very often require some kind of a degree or certification and that doesn’t come cheap. For those coming out of families that don’t have wealth it’s very difficult to get through schooling without taking on student loans. My children have been paying, at community college, the amount for a semester that I paid for a YEAR at a state university when I was in college. And they are making at their jobs the same amount, or even a slight bit more, than I was making during my schooling. And if a young person complains about the burden of student loan debt they are told that it was their “choice” to take it on themselves. That’s because “choice” implies responsibility and guilt.

But is it really a choice?

If our society has created a structure wherein you need a higher education to get a better job

and the cost of education is set so that the average person not coming from generational wealth cannot afford it without assistance

and the only assistance that is available to the average person is in the form of student loans

then the only way for a person to pursue a higher education and change their circumstances is to take out student loans.

That’s basic logic there — it’s hardly a “choice” that one should feel guilt over. The choice to do whatever it takes to change your situation is the American Dream! So why has that dream become a nightmare for so many?

We are refusing, as a society, to look at the societal structures. We are refusing to acknowledge that more and more the structure we’ve created (or allowed to be created) is doing several things.

  1. Out of fear of “redistribution of (our) wealth” we have failed to understand that money’s purpose is to be redistributed and to move around and through society – the more hands it touches the more it accomplishes. We have allowed the redistribution of wealth to flow from the poor to the rich who hoard it and stop it from accomplishing it’s intended purpose.
  2. Because we don’t want to consider that “the other” might be more like us than we think, we have blamed people for their life circumstances and called “choices” things that were out of their control. No one chooses the family into which they are born. No one chooses disabilities, or failing school systems in their assigned school district, or medical emergencies when they don’t have insurance. The only people making choices in these areas of life are the people who hoard wealth and keep it from others, the politicians who draw up the school districts and decide their funding, the medical system that is allowed to function for profit and insurance companies that have driven up the cost. It seems those who are making the choices in this system should feel guilty – and those who are victims of their choices should be acknowledged as victims of abusers who do not deserve to be shamed for their circumstances. In reality, no matter how much homage we pay to our abusers, we are all at risk of being victimised by the current system.
  3. Because some people, by sheer determination, unexpected help, or a change in circumstance, are able to change their status in our society we praise them as what everyone should try and aspire to instead of acknowledging them as having achieved something more difficult than we want to admit. Everyone loves an underdog story. The kid from the inner-city who graduates Harvard is one we’ve all seen movies and heard stories about. But if they are a person of color there is always someone, even in the movie, yelling about them being “given” something they didn’t deserve or earn. Usually that person is someone who got there because they are a legacy child whose parent went there – even though their grades suck and the only reason they were accepted is that their family name is suddenly on the library. The reality is, people get ahead when others help them. We were created to exist in community and community includes others. If a teacher intervenes and suggests you can do and be more, you have been helped by someone, If a benefactor gives to a scholarship fund you qualify for, you have been helped. If quotas were put in place by politicians that required schools that would normally keep people out choose from among that population and allow at least some in, that some has been helped. But they still had to earn it! In fact, they worked a lot harder than the legacy kid to be chosen out of the many who applied. If we can acknowledge the need for help to change circumstances, instead of praising the one man who left his child in a bus station bathroom all day so that he could doggedly pursue an unpaid internship as though that’s what everyone should be willing to do to get a job that pays more than poverty salary, we would make different choices as a society and we would actually help people.

That’s a short list, but I need to save something for tomorrow. In closing let me leave you with this thought . . .

Thoughts from the Sukkah 2019/5780 Day 3

So update on the suit . . . I mostly finished the jacket but when it was tried on the arms were a little too short. Not such a big deal but enough of an issue that I am going to stop and he’s going to wear the backup suit that I bought.

And this is where the shame lurks at the corners of my soul . . . the money that I spent, the time I’ve invested . . . my self talk is trying really hard to shout me down. Wasteful. Failure. Loser.

Thankfully I have my husband and a very good friend who are instead that I am none of those things and that the money was an investment. I will still finish the suit. I am even considering this a “master class” in suit making. I am a better person and have learned some super advanced sewing skills this week. It has been very worth it and maybe, just maybe, I needed this skill set before some future suit making event that I’m going to be really grateful I’ve got this. I’ve got young adult children so who knows what events we will have going forward.

I just threw out the idea that I might make everyone suits this nest year and the 3 males in the room were very excited about the idea!

The sleeves need some adjustments but single AND double welt pockets!!!

See, shame is not about guilt. I did nothing wrong. I owe no one an apology. I have nothing for which to make amends. I am not wrong. I do not have anyone to reconcile with . . . I have no guilt here.

I am disappointed that I didn’t get it done – especially after working so hard this week.

I’m also relieved that I made a back up plan and that I have the next couple of days to not be focused solely on this project.

But I’m rejecting shame . . . no time for that.

Thoughts from the Sukkah 2019/5780 Day 2

Guilt is a feeling. It feels dark, and lonely. It’s as if there is a disconnect between you and the one you wronged. . . God, someone you care about, maybe even yourself.

Shame is more than a feeling. It is a state of being.

I know I’m in a shame spiral when my self talk becomes critical and aggressive. I have trouble sleeping, and am both hungry and nauseous at the same time. Sometimes it’s pure fear. That’s what I feel when I encounter an abuser. I used to think it defined me – indicated I had done something wrong. That’s what abusers tell you, after all. But now I know the truth – it’s the warning that goes off when I encounter an abuser and when I feel it now I tune into what they are doing. I don’t get distracted by trying to figure out what I’m doing.

It’s amazing how much clarity comes from understanding this one simple truth.

Today’s shame spiral wasn’t from an abuser – it was from over committing myself. Or *maybe* overcommitting myself. One of my children needs something by Saturday and I committed to making it, but it’s so much harder than I expected it to be.

Will I be able to finish it? Most likely.

Am I doing it and is it looking good? Yes – most definitely.

BUT . . . there’s a firm deadline and I’m having to learn a lot of new skills to get this done. So when I acknowledged what was going on I decided to stop abusing myself. I’m still working on it, but I also went and bought one so that if I don’t finish it I haven’t failed my son. I don’t want to fail my son.

In the end it was quite an easy fix once I realised what was going on. I’m so glad I’m learning how to recognise shame and not take it upon myself. I’m so grateful it doesn’t define me.

Thoughts from the Sukkah 2019/5780 Day 1

I have had a lot of focus in the past few months on the difference between guilt and shame and it seemed the perfect focus for the High Holy Days. I thought I would continue it in my ponderings this year from the comfort of my sukkah.

So here I sit and ponder the difference between guilt and shame. Because there doesn’t seem to be a difference in Scripture and when you read the writings from the Rabbi’s. But when you read the meanings of what is being discussed a very distinct difference emerges in our modern language.

View from my Sukkah
This is the beautiful view I have as I sit and ponder the meaning of life

It turns out what is translated as ‘shame’ is more akin to guilt but a little more than we might mean in our casual usage. It’s more like ‘guilt’ is the state of being guilty and ‘shame’ is the feeling that naturally accompanies knowing you did something wrong. It’s that feeling of regret – that awareness that you should have done differently that leads to a conviction to do differently next time. I think this is why there are no sacrifices for intentional sins . . . . in order to commit intentional sins you have to feel no guilt at all about what you’re doing and no regret. You knew it was wrong ahead of time and you made the choice to do it. It’s where we get sayings like “have you no shame?”

“Guilt is a good thing when it’s your conscious being aware of the damage you’ve done and driving the choice to make changes in your life and do differently going forward. “

Crystal Lutton

I made a point in parenting each of my children to highlight that feeling of guilt and use it to help develop empathy and teach repentance. Turns out it takes some years for a child to develop empathy – the awareness that others have feelings and they can impact them. If you’re paying attention, though, you see that lightbulb come on. You see that healthy shame hit them like a ton of bricks and turn their countenance downcast.

When I would see this I would take them aside and sit with them for a bit. Quietly, peacefully, non-judgmentally. I would validate their feelings. “I see you feel bad about how that went down.” Wait for their response – verbal or not. I would describe their feeling . . . “Does it feel like there’s a darkness on your heart that is heavy and sad? Does it make you want to slink away and not be seen?” Usually they would say yes, or add their own description for me. I would name their feeling. “That is guilt. It’s healthy. It means you know you did something wrong. God teaches us how to get rid of that feeling and it’s not always easy but it’s worth it.” I would teach, “When you feel that guilt you go to the person that you wronged and you own it. ‘I did X and it was wrong.’ Then you take responsibility for it. ‘I’m sorry.’ Then you commit to not doing it again. ‘I won’t do that again and I want the chance to earn back your trust.'” This moves you through repentance and into reconciliation and is a necessary step to really heal any damage you did.

Turns out the process is the same whether you do something big or something little so I took those opportunities when things were little to let them practice this. It’s a much harder lesson to learn when you get bigger. It’s also important to model and when I would realise that something I’d said or done had wounded my precious ones in any way I would step up and do the hard work myself.

Because when we talk about shame we’re talking about something different from the natural feeling that accompanies guilt. Somehow in our modern world we’ve managed to misunderstand this so terribly that we’ve created a type of shame that goes into a person and defines them as shameful. We’ve taken that dark heavy feeling in your heart you feel when you do something wrong and through punishment we have driven it deeper until it becomes the essence of their self awareness.

When we talk about shame today we’re talking about that feeling of worthlessness that overcomes us when we do something wrong – something simple, usually. It causes us to not be able to take correction or criticism in relationships or on the job. We no longer operate in that place of, “Oh, that was wrong, I feel badly about it and won’t do it again. Let me go take responsibility.” Instead we operate from a place of, “I am wrong, I always mess up. I hope no-one sees me for the horrible person I really am.”

The good news if you currently live in shame is that you can change this. You are more than what you do. Who you are is worthy. Learned behaviors can be unlearned and new behaviors can be learned. This is what I’m thinking about this week and what I want to talk about. I hope you’ll join me.

Ballad for America Today

O beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain 

For purple mountain majesties, above the fruited plain 

America, America, God shed His grace on thee 

And crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea 

So much potential and look what we’ve become.

O beautiful for Pilgrim feet, whose stern impassioned stress 

Pilgrims who came as asylum seekers. Pilgrims who as refugees sought freedom from oppression. Pilgrims whose stern impassioned stress brought them across the ocean and into a New World where they had hopes and dreams and plans.  Some of them my ancestors. Maybe that’s why I feel this particular burden to call out the hypocrisy today – why I can’t stay silent when I see how we now treat people.  When I look at America today, when I stand here with the feet I inherited from these Pilgrims, I also stand here with their stern impassioned stress for freedom and I cannot see it here anymore.  Along the way we have allowed others to write our stories and tell us who we are. Along the way, we have allowed those who sought freedom to take it from others. Along the way, we have allowed ourselves to be distracted and we have believed promises of intentions without any demand for actions to back them up. We have politicians who are working for lobbyists and big corporations and no longer for We The People.  What do We The People want? It can’t be this.

A thoroughfare for freedom beat, across the wilderness 

And everyone who stood in the way or was needed for slave labor was beat. Violence. That is the legacy. Manifest Destiny for the white man, loss of land and home and pride for the Indigenous People murdered and stolen from and shoved onto reservations – a separate nation within our midst . . . Until they do something with their land that makes it desirable to us and then we figure out a way to mine it, or lay pipeline through it.  Always new ways to beat that thoroughfare.  Black bodies torn away from their homes and families and shipped here as chattel, property, to be beaten and farm that wilderness with sweat and tears in bondage.  Loss of wilderness for everyone. When will we learn that freedom is not freedom if it’s only for some, or at the expense of others, or with greater loss than the gain?  Freedom has not ever been the goal – we can see this looking back.  This is what abusers tell their victims. I did it for your own good. You needed me. I made you who you are today.  Partnered with the declaration that you deserved it.  You were nothing but wild people in the wilderness – you needed me to tame you.  Look at what you’ve become, America! Nothing is free, but you sure have to be brave to survive here.

America, America, God mend thine every flaw 

When, God, will we acknowledge and do something about every flaw of America? When will we stop deflecting – yes, other places have it worse.  That doesn’t mend our flaws! When will we stop gaslighting – yes, police do shoot black bodies dead for no damn reason but they’re black. Men do rape women and subject us to a whole lot more than that as well . . . Just because we’re women.  When will we stop triangulating – The rich pay slave wages in order to keep the wealth for themselves and then try to pit everyone who has-not against each other so that we won’t realize if we all banded together we are so many more than they are and we have so much power. Our flaws are not scars that we can reflect on – we have not been mended. We have allowed those flaws to become infected and to fester and stink.

Confirm thy soul in self control, Thy liberty in law 

Unless you really wanted to control her. Then it’s okay.  Or if you were afraid so you had to shoot the unarmed man … while you were in uniform and on duty.  Then it’s okay. Or if you needed to open more superstores and the quickest way to do that without risking your own wealth was to use government welfare as your health insurance and pay slave wages.  Then it’s okay. The law will be twisted and manipulated to make sure you keep your liberty.

O beautiful for heroes proved, in liberating strife 

We have to rely on the heroes – we certainly won’t create any common sense gun laws to protect our children from being shot in their schools by boys who were broken up with by a girl who found them creepy and controlling because she’s either a bitch or someone who knew the guy and knew it was smart to get away from him.  We certainly won’t limit the amount of guns a man can purchase on the internet and in local gun shows before he takes the elevator high enough in a hotel in Vegas to shoot up a concert of people who were just out for the evening with friends and loved ones. We will praise the heroes – the teachers and students who put themselves between more victims and a shooter. And we will praise the next heroes who do the same – and the next – and the next – and the . . . I can’t be the only one who sees the pattern here!  We certainly won’t do anything to prevent the next shooting.

Who more than self their country loved, and mercy more than life 

Where are these politicians and people in power? How did we get so out of balance? Because now those who love country more than self have abandoned mercy and despise life for anyone but them. They are Nationalists – they are white nationalists – and they want to preserve a white country. They want to Make America White Again because they demand some mercy – they think they are losing it to all those immigrants . . . Who came after them.  Mercy more than life. Mercy more than life. Mercy more than life. If only they were chanting that in Charlottesville when they carried tiki torches. Where is the mercy in “Jews will not replace us?”  Where was the mercy for Heather?

America, America, May God thy gold refine 

And make sure when we redistribute wealth it flows from the bottom to the top because that gold is really valuable and of course that means God wants it in only the hands of the people who can figure out how to steal it from everyone. We’ll call it capitalism, and the church will defend it with it’s last dying breath because we all know that’s the real religion – and gold is the real god.  Let’s not talk about universal healthcare, or education for the masses. Let’s not talk about homes for the homeless, jobs for the jobless, food for the hungry.  If they live in America, America with all that gold refined by God and don’t have any of it, they must be the blame, right? They must not be worthy, because certainly being alive and working hard isn’t enough to be worthy. They must not be willing to work, if they were they would take that 4th job.  Besides, with wealth comes power and there are some we fear having power. Let’s make sure to keep that refined gold away from them.

Till all success be nobleness, and every gain divine 

Unless you are a woman or a person of color and then your success is seen as a threat to the white man in power.  Your every gain is perceived as taking away from them.  You have to be kept in your place so that they can keep their place. If you are a woman or a person or color your success must have been stolen, or given to you through sexual favors, or maybe, if you really have success, it might be because you figured out how to act like a man or act like you’re white because we all know that’s who gets to be successful.  That’s who divine gain is preserved for. We certainly don’t want to consider that the Divine might want success to flow to everyone. We certainly can’t imagine that power is intended for personal use and not to be directed at others and used as a weapon to keep them in their place.  We really don’t want to admit that the Divine isn’t a white man …

O beautiful for patriot dream, that sees beyond the years 

What was your dream, O patriot? Did you see all of this when you looked ahead down the years?  Did you see the pain? The power that would be reclaimed through Jim Crow laws and gerrymandered borders for elections? Did you see the Russian and Chinese interference in our elections? Was that your dream? Did you know you were setting course for the pussy grabber lying money laundering racist in chief to declare there were “good people on both sides” when one of the sides was White Supremacists and Nazi’s? I have to believe you could not. I have to believe that you couldn’t see this far through the years. If you could, that dream was not beautiful. It’s become a nightmare for too many.

Thine alabaster cities gleam, undimmed by human tears 

Yes – thine alabaster cities gleam, undimmed by human tears. It is the non-alabaster cities that shed tears under the dark cloud of grief and mourning of the black bodies shot down by police who, even when they are caught on video and it’s clear everything they did was wrong . . . Hateful . . . Racist! Even when we can all see it with our own eyes and hear it with our own ears, a jury of their peers is spoon fed laws that say if they were scared it was fine.  Non-alabaster cities live daily with the disproportionate number of men of color spending disproportionate lengths of time in prison for the same damn crime as a white man who gets probation. If only some of the alabaster would shed some tears for the non-alabaster we might start to see some change. Until that day, there’s a tarnish on our gleam that only salt water can cleanse.

America, America, God shed His grace on thee 

And what have you done with it? Have you been worthy? Some days it seems that you’ve preserved God’s grace entrusted to you for the rich, or the white, or the people who can afford the best attorney. Those in power demand grace. Those who abuse demand grace. White young men with potential or who are good at sports see all sorts of grace. Brown men, women and children at the border – people who fled their country for the safety and asylum of America and all her grace – are separated, isolated, locked in cages. The President calls them rapists, while their children are raped by the guards. The President calls them murderers, while they die in custody. The President calls them ‘the worst of the worst’ when the truth is that is all he thinks they are worthy of from us. No grace. Even though God shed so much on us. No grace for you. None to spare. Greed wins the day again.

And crown thy good with brotherhood, 

Certainly not sisterhood.  If you are a woman, you will be cat-called and groped. You will be raped on a bus when you’re 14 and you will be locked in a dog cage when you’re 16.  You will cry out with #metoo and you will be told, once again, you are being too loud and drawing too much attention to yourself.  You will be perceived as a threat to the brotherhood.  You will be pursued by the brotherhood – hunted by the brotherhood – dominated, silenced, shamed, raped, and controlled through legislation by the brotherhood. You will not often see the good.

From sea to not so shining and filled with the run off waste of our consumerism and disposable plastic sea…

Announcing Thomas Talks!

I am so excited to announce that ThomasTalks.net is live! This is the culmination of my life’s journey and working for 3 years with a ministry coach and a team of amazing women who God has brought into my life to help me on several projects — I’m so grateful they have continued alongside on this one!

Please, check it out! If there is anything you would like to see addressed there, or you would like to talk to me about contributing there, please let me know. There will be memes and voices and I hope it will be an encouragement to many of you as you navigate the journey of life and ask questions about how faith impacts who we are and what we do.

Ephesians 5 . . . husbands/wives and Christ/Church

A human has a head with a brain and a body with a heart. If either is dead the person is dead. In Ephesians, Paul explains that, for the purposes of the analogy he is making — AFTER saying that all believers are to submit to one another — the man is the head of the person and the woman is the body. This fits with the idea held at his time that the man was closer to the mind of God and the woman closer to the heart of God . . . it also fits with the belief also held at his time that the heart was the ruling organ of the body and the Jewish belief that women intuitively understand things about God that men need to study to learn.

The human — who was one person until divided into two and then called to be Echad — a word that translates “one” but which is not “singular one” but is more like “one bunch of grapes” or a plural, multi-faceted one. I express it as plural unity because it is the word for the two shall become one AND the word used when Moses says, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.” Just as Jesus said “I and the father are one” and he explains that he hasn’t do anything the hasn’t seen the Father doing. They function in plural unity.

One bunch of grapes

One bunch of grapes

And that’s important because Paul ends the section of Ephesians 5 with this statement “29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. 30 For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” (yes, there is one additional verse here but it’s a practical summary moving back from the analogy and it’s been twisted so much that it warrants it’s own discussion)

Jesus loves the church how? By sacrificing, laying down his life, redeeming, and loving us thoroughly! Men — imagine your wives are like your own body — imagine you have literally become one flesh with them. That’s the mystery and that’s the picture — as well as you do this, that’s the picture you are giving to the world about what the relationship between Christ and the Church looks like. Your picture will be imperfect, but that’s what you’re aiming for.

Christ and the Church is NOT the analogy of husband and wife. Husband and wife is the analogy for Christ and the Church

So Christ and the Church is NOT the analogy of husband and wife. Husband and wife is the analogy for Christ and the Church. And just as the church is supposed to strive for plural unity with Christ, that is intended to be expressed to the world when they see husband and wife functioning plural unity — the picture we give is what they will understand. And where we fail we destroy the picture . . . kind of like how Moses struck the rock and destroyed a picture of Messiah and the Jews know they needed and credit with their errors from that point on.

Thoughts on hell

I often get asked about the Hebraic understanding of Hell and what Scripture says (or doesn’t say) about it. In response to one of the more recent exchanges I was in I presented this and since I worked so hard putting it together I thought I’d share it instead of trying to do it again. These are my current thoughts and I can’t say they won’t change, mature, finesse, etc., over time, but I offer them for what dialogue they may provoke.

I believe that hell is a Greco-Roman construct that is based on the mythology of the god Hades. I believe it was imposed into theology when the catholic church (little c from the time that “catholic” meaning universal was the only church) separated itself from the Jewish Sect known as the Way that was the faithful expression of the early believers who were first called Christians (this is history found in the New Testament that I’m referring to — if you want to read about the separation that took place for primarily socio-political reasons and resulted in different theologies you can check out Stern’s “Restoring the Jewishness of the Gospels”) Some Christian believe this -- but I don't

I believe that Jesus’ parable about the rich man and Lazarus was consistent with the Jewish understanding of Abraham’s Bosom which contained Paradise (where the faithful went to await Messiah) and Torments (where souls unhindered from the body were given the opportunity to learn lessons that they did not learn while in the body that they needed to learn to recognize Messiah — the rich man sought to fulfill himself with food and drink which is why he was thirsty — he needed eternal waters that only Jesus could provide). It has nothing to do with a Greco-Roman idea of Hell.

The idea of Gehenna also has nothing to do with a Greco-Roman idea of hell because it is referring to where the body of one tried and found guilty of violating Torah would have been thrown if they were put to death for their sins. That is why Jesus refers to it in the ways that he does — it would be better to be . . . . than to have your body thrown to the place where someone tried for violating Torah and found guilty would have their body thrown, etc.

Some people try to say that the Lake of Fire is hell but, again, there is no Hebraic concept of a hell where people who don’t believe in God are sent to be tormented forever in burning fire. The Lake of Fire is understood to be God’s bosom because God is eternal holy fire — imagery that is used throughout Scripture to refer to God and the reality in stories is that those who enter God’s presence in an unworthy manner or with their sin still upon them burst into flames and burn up. Death, Hell, the Grave, the Accuser — all created for a purpose in this life to bring about God’s purposes — will burn forever in the Lake of Fire. Those who follow them will be cast in after them but it is reading too much into the text to add to it that they will also be tormented forever. It is more consistent with Scripture to take Jesus at his word that no one survives the 2nd death without faith in him — and that the Lake of Fire is the 2nd death. (Rev 2:11 “He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.”; Rev 20:6 “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.” and Rev 21:8 “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”)

Now, it might seem unrelated but I believe it’s vital so I want to address the idea that God cannot be in the presence of sin. It is foolishness — it is sin that cannot be in the presence of God without burning up. If we die and we are still carrying our sins then we cannot survive the 2nd death which is the Lake of Fire. We will burn up in the presence of God — like Aaron’s sons in the Temple. I believe that Jesus carried all of mankind’s sins into the presence of God and they were burned up and he remained because he was without sin. This is GOOD NEWS! We do not have to fear the 2nd death. We are freed from the power of sin and death so that we can live righteous lives!

The Good News is you have been freed from the power of sin and death by Jesus

I do not believe we have to understand this, or what it means, or how it happened, or anything because our finite brains will never truly understand the things of God. I do believe you can reject God’s gift — but I do not believe any of us can know when someone has truly done that and our words and actions are not the final say. God judges the heart and we cannot see one another’s hearts. We can disagree with doctrine. We can have different understanding of theology. We *cannot* judge someone’s salvation and to try and do so is to sit ourselves on the throne of God and that is blasphemy! Therefore I focus on sharing the Gospel by doing just that — sharing the Good News. You have been freed from the power of sin and death by Jesus and if you accept that is true you will be able to live an abundant life full of blessings! You will have experienced forgiveness and be able to forgive others and you will have been first loved by God and that will provoke you to love! And we will know you are a believer by your love because anyone who loves God will love their neighbor and loving your neighbor is loving God. You cannot love without God because God IS Love.

Therefore, if anyone says they are in the light but hates their brother they are a liar and are still in darkness (1 John 2:9) and 1 John 4:20 “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” Yet 1 John 4:12 says this “No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.” 1 John 4:18 “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” is one of the main reasons that I don’t believe in sharing the Good News that Jesus saved us from the power of sin and death with the threat of punishment — eternal or otherwise. We love God because he first loved us — not because we are afraid of what will happen if we don’t.

Rejecting Bad News is not rejecting God

Anyone who says they are saved because they are afraid of the alternative is someone still walking in darkness because they do not understand the Good News and are not walking and living in the abundant life that is expressed through love. I would rather spend my time with people who are loving others and revealing that God is at work in their lives (even if they don’t have my same doctrinal expression of faith) than with people who can string verses together to prove they are saved but do not have love and reveal themselves to be liars. And when the supposed “Good News” is delivered with a threat it has ceased to be the Good News and rejecting it is not the same as rejecting God or His Love and free gift of salvation from the power of sin and death.