What I know…

love

A toddler falling into a gorilla habitat. A terrible mass shooting in Orlando. A singer shot dead. A toddler snatched by an alligator from a Disney World beach.

And that’s just recently in America. (And not all of it by any means.)

With the world caught in yet another firestorm, with blame, shame and accusations flying, and social media and the blogosphere swollen with posturing and opinions, what of value remains to be said?

Honestly, I have avoided reading most of what is out there. As an introvert, you can guarantee that if the whole world is talking about something, then I am not talking about it. I need time to think, to contemplate, before I can even begin to comprehend the implications of events like the ones we have all witnessed recently.

The nature of social media and of our fast-paced world is that we are expected to think on our feet without pause and without honest, deep reflection. Politicians and leaders are expected to present immediate answers and solutions.

But so often, the result is red hot-headed reactivity, and problems are never solved that way. They are generally made worse.

And so often, the result is blame and scapegoating.

If the mother had been watching her child. If the father hadn’t allowed his child to wade in the water. If people would just obey the Bible.

None of these things would happen.

The world would make sense again.

And I would be safe.

(Until, incomprehensible tragedy strikes, and I am not.)

One of the saddest social media posts, for me personally, was one where an acquaintance stated ecstatically that she had learned that Christina Grimmie, the singer gunned down this week, was Christian. It’s heaven for this girl now, she crowed.

Sad because this was not said when so many of our GLBQT brothers and sisters were gunned down in a nightclub the very next day. Many of them would not have considered themselves Christians because much of Christianity excludes and disqualifies them. Is it not heaven for them? Is it not heaven for the alleged shooter and for our Muslim brothers and sisters because they do not confess the name of Jesus? And what does it say about God if it isn’t?

Does God exclude and disqualify us based on our actions and beliefs?

Honestly, I don’t know for certain. I can’t know that or many things at all for certain. It’s God we are talking about, and so much of him is unfathomable, mysterious, unknowable.

But the parts of me that I believe were gifted by God — my heart, head and spirit — emphatically say no, God does not exclude us based on our humanity and all that comes with it.

Because…Jesus.

Jesus, the evidence of the substance of the Father. And so, because…God.

In healing our image of God, Jesus frees us of fear of the Father and dislike of ourselves. ~ Brennan Manning

Excluding and disqualifying people is what we humans do, and yet deep down, we feel it when our unloving attitudes toward others abrade our spirits.

Judge not…

Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor. ~ Matthew 7:1-5, The Message translation.

(I just have to say that I love The Message’s translation of that verse. I need to hang it on my fridge and read it every day.)

All I know is that I myself feel called not to consciously exclude anyone, nor to disqualify them on any basis in my mind. Deep within, I believe that if there is to be the choice of heaven for me, so inordinately privileged and fortunate (and yes, sometimes not so fortunate) to be living in the time and place that I am with the knowledge that I have, then there must also be the true blue, authentic choice of heaven for all people.

Herein lies the secret, I believe, of the inner life of Jesus. Christ’s communion with Abba in the inner sanctuary of His soul transformed His vision of reality, enabling Him to perceive God’s love and care behind the complexities of life. Practicing the presence helps us to discern the providence of God at work especially in those dark hours when the signature of Jesus is being traced in our flesh. ~ Brennan Manning, The Signature of Jesus.

These are dark hours, as of late, when the signature of Jesus is being traced indeed in our flesh.

As we make contemplation a spiritual practice, we pause, we slow down, and so we begin to make room for the mind of God within our own minds and hearts. We lose the need to make sense of everything and to blame others so that it all make sense. We lose the need to make ourselves appear perfect and with our acts together in the eyes of others. (As Richard Rohr says, people around us clearly see our shadow selves, but we ourselves have a very hard time seeing our own. A contemplative practice can help with that.)

The shadow is that part of the self that we don’t want to see, that we’re always afraid of and don’t want others to see either. The shadow self is not of itself evil; it just allows you to do evil without calling it evil. ~ Richard Rohr

As a busy homeschooling mother of three, I am just beginning to make time for my own contemplative practice. As a beginner, I am by no means an expert, but I’ll close by sharing with you what a few minutes of contemplation this week has shown me.

At the Pulse nightclub that night, in that split second between life and death, I see Jesus with his hands outstretched to each departing soul.

You are home. You are wanted here. I know who you are. You are my beloved child.

I believe that these are the words that we will all hear in the end. No matter what masks we wear and what false selves we have spent our lives projecting to the world, he sees through them and he knows who we are beneath. To him, we are beautiful, we are precious, and we are good.

In the end, I believe that this is what we must say yes to — to agree with — in order to receive the fullness of eternity and all that that means.

We really are all included.

~ by Jeannine Buntrock

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