Michele Minehart

words & yoga

Category: God (page 1 of 13)

For You or Against You

In the weeks preceding her surgeries, I made several visits to see Vanessa. I’ve stored up these conversations as “treasures in my heart” as Mary did with the wise words Gabriel shared. Much like Mary, I had no idea how or when I would lean into them, I only recognized them as valuable.

One time, she shared with me how she had reacted when others didn’t see (as clearly as she did) the depth and breadth of talent hidden in her daughter. There was a play, and auditions, and significant disappointment. She shared with me that she was angry, as any parent is on behalf of a beloved. Then, she told me the lesson she took away from the experience. She began to see things with a larger view. “That director didn’t wake up that morning thinking, ‘how can I make the Barrett household miserable today’ she was only doing her job to put together the best production possible.” Vanessa said.

When faced with perceived or real unfairness and injustice, we tend to live as if everything is against us. That’s our natural reaction, perhaps simply a human one. And while it’s natural, it might not be helpful. Our perception of reality begins to shape our response, which actually has more power to change any given situation than shifting the responsibility to the rest of the world.

If you believe God, the Universe, and/or the rest of Humanity is for you, rather than against you, I promise you will experience the world and interpret its events in a dramatically different way. And you will respond to such powers and events with more grace. Similarly, if you choose to believe that this is all heading toward something good, you will see the ways in which the fabric of creation is also rooting on our fellow human, which is just as noble a cause.

You are more than welcome to believe that It Is All Against You. The world is at war with you. You are constantly fighting an uphill battle. Such posture will require you take up a sword and keep swinging. Take note, however, that constant charging may keep fellow “soldiers” a good distance away, avoiding friendly fire.

I’d welcome you to try out a stance of peacemaking. That it all works together for the good.  God is For You: this is a theme amplified through the First Testament. When Jesus starts citing the Blessed Are The’s, he puts his voice behind the idea that your situation is not an indicator that God has forgotten you or left you behind. In fact, he says, in any situation there is opportunity to feel the closeness of God.

Of course, God and the Universe on your side doesn’t imply finding the 4 bedroom house on 5 acres in the country with a brand new kitchen, and in your price range. The promise was never for perfection: just goodness. Siding with the Powers that Be simply means we will get what we need, yet not necessarily what we always want. It might even be helpful to remember that what we want may not be helpful for finding what we need.

I’ve come to integrate this very concept in my parenting. When they don’t like the direction I’m taking them, I’ll ask, “do you believe that mommy is on your side? Do you believe that mommy wants good things for you?” Yes, they answer, because they know my love. What they’re experiencing might not be their preference, but they can trust that I have an end goal in mind that is headed toward goodness.

So you can respond to Life in a myriad of ways. One is to keep fighting, hell-bent. The other is to see with a view that is more heaven-ward. We tend to find what we’re looking for, so if you want evidence of goodness, then you need to first start seeking it.

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Riding on the Clouds

I distinctly remember gathering with fellow first graders in Mrs. Beitler’s classroom to watch a 1986 Big Deal Space Event. (It turns out this was probably the Challenger fiasco. I have no recollection of the disaster ending, so the teachers must have been on their toes. Or I simply blocked it out.) My six-year-old self knew it was exciting stuff, but men had already been on moons. For the entirety of my life, in fact.

I’ve read from more than one author that the fact that God did not live above the clouds was a discovery. “We went to space and God was not there.” I shrugged it off the first time, but the second time I let it simmer. I asked a friend. Wait. You mean people were disappointed and confused when we found that outer space isn’t heaven? I’ve never known the greater atmosphere to be anything but the domain of moons and planets and less gravity.

When we discovered something new about our world, from my perspective, we learned something new about God. My 1980’s-kid self doesn’t completely grasp the challenge of simultaneously holding both truths, because both truths have always been evident to me.

Does anyone know how this shift in understanding was accepted among the most literal readers of the Bible? Was it a government hoax for a while? Did they believe that Neil was a used car salesman?  Is this why JFK was shot?

I don’t mean to belittle the belief systems of those who grew up pre-Neil Armstrong. (Because this includes basically every human being in history, save the ones born in the last 40 years. Slight majority.) Actually, I’m confident my generation will come across a shift in interpretation of the Bible with a magnitude equal to God’s change of address. How will I deal? How far in will my heals dig before I relent that perhaps we weren’t supposed to read the poetry so literally?

How did these space-not-heaven conversations go down in the generation that had to deal with it? What bridges were built to pave the way to acceptance? How many people let go of their faith because they found out it had been in an idea about God and not faith in God?

We’re raising a generation of God-lovers in a constantly expanding world. I’m hoping to arm mine with a worldview that can take what I may deem as unfathomable that they can accept as basic knowledge. The goal: they won’t need to toss the concept of God in order to hold evident truths of the universe.  So, what does it mean to have faith in God and not only the ideas about God we’ve been taught? Can we know the difference? Do we need to?

I have too much hope in the world God created to believe we’ve reached the end of opportunity for exploration. There is so much more to discover. The bigger the universe, the bigger God becomes to me. So how do I instill a faith that expands with our revelations?

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Looking in empty places

In John’s gospel (chapter 20), within 2 paragraphs of Mary Magdalene finding an empty tomb, Jesus’ first words to the group of the disciples.

Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of anyone, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

Why in my 37 years of Easter morning services have I never known what specific directions Jesus gave the disciples? I got the “go and make disciples” messages, and the running to the empty grave and even some stories about not recognizing Jesus on the road. Never once did I know that we had this Forgiveness Mandate put upon our lives.

Previous to Jesus’ announcement, forgiving only happened at the Temple. (Remember that passage where the religious leaders accused Jesus of heresy because he forgave the sins of the man on the mat? “Only God can forgive sins,” they yelled.) To achieve forgiveness status, you showed up at the temple with the appropriate size of bird or mammal, along with a tithe (and remember, the Pharisees were tacking on a tenth of mint and thyme because they were High Achievers). You paid your dues for having Psoriasis to the Temple system and moved on about your life.

And what about when you kept having to give and give to the Temple System because bad things kept happening to you? Like when you spent 3 months locked in your house because your 4 small children caught every bug and virus known to the local school system? The message was clear: You’re not blessed. You’re not on God’s good side, so give a little more.

Those without had even less. Unless you count the heaps of guilt and shame they carried around with them.

Jesus’ message of new life: We the People can forgive. You’re not tied to a suffocating system anymore.

God gave the temple as a means to serve the people. God gave processes, not because he needed the smell of burning heifer to create happiness in heaven. God didn’t need another dead dove or spotless ram from your field. God did, however, need people to walk in a sense of freedom.

And in the absence of a system which restored people to fullness of life, Jesus handed the task to the people. Regular old carpenters and farmers and guys who liked to fish on Sunday.

This passage resonated deeply with me, not just because of the weight and the task ahead of us (ahem: me. I cannot tell you the last time I went around sprinkling forgiveness into my conversation. Who am I to forgive you? That shall remain for another blog.)

My circles include plenty of people who have no use for church. And it turns out, Jesus gets that. It’s no secret the way religion can – and has, or does – participate in the power structures of society.

Now, I’ll stand by the local church. And, I know that if there’s any means of forgiveness and restoration coming from these walls, it’s not because God favors the building or the system: it’s because I’ve happened upon a group of people who love God and are participating in the great command of issuing grace to one another from a great bounty of love.

If you’re home on Easter Sunday morning, perhaps feeling a tad guilty for choosing chocolate bunnies and hard boiled eggs over organ hymns or even rock guitar versions of songs of jubilee, then I see you. I get it. And it’s okay. If the system has failed to bring you peace and forgiveness, then that’s the fault of the system. And more accurately, it’s the fault of the people who proclaim a message and then fail to offer it’s generous benefits to everyone.

What we’re all looking for doesn’t come from a system, it comes from The Spirit – which resides in the people. We fail the world when we try to systematize that which can only come from contact with the living God.

I’m walking away from this passage this morning less with a mandate to “invite someone to church” and more to walk alongside those who need to see and hear and know and feel what it is to live in forgiveness and freedom. They will not find what they’re looking for in a church if they cannot find it in the person who invites them.

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