Blood

In chapter 17 of our favorite book of the Bible, Leviticus, there is a long, detailed explanation/instruction dealing with how we are to handle blood. It’s long, detailed passages like this that give us problems with the Bible and, more specifically, Leviticus. So if we haven’t already skipped over Leviticus, like normal people, we’ll certainly skip over this passage. What does a long, detailed section on blood have to do with us, here, now, today?

Probably nothing.

We’re talking about it today, here, not because I particularly care about blood (as long as it stays on the inside), but maybe this long, detailed section has to do with much more than blood. (Just for knowing, the next 2 paragraphs owe in no small way to Rob Bell.)

First, blood was a way (a BIG way) to talk about life. Usually, if we had your blood on the inside, and not on the ground, you were alive. If not, you weren’t. So any talk about blood was really about life. The other understanding we would have, as readers of the Scriptures is that life is a sacred gift, not a random, senseless occurrence.

Leviticus is about living in a wholly intentional fashion, and Chapter 17 is no different. The blood is a vehicle to heighten our sensitivities to life & death. The people of the time – the people of any time – had a tendency to adopt a pretty cavalier attitude toward life. They/we take it too easily, willingly, as if it is theirs/ours to take. Leviticus is a proclamation, an absolutely revolutionary proclamation, that everything doesn’t exist for our mindless, unreflective consumption.

Maybe chapter 17 isn’t necessarily about blood at all. Maybe it’s about our relationship with each other, with our world, with all things. Chapter 18 is about sex, and there is an absolutely revolutionary proclamation there, too. In fact, it’s the same proclamation: Everything doesn’t exist for our mindless, unreflective consumption. So much of the Law concerns food, and our relationship with it, and includes an absolutely revolutionary proclamation, as well.

Life isn’t only about blood and breath, right? It’s relationships, sex, food, joy, mourning, brushing our teeth, music, pain, exercise, making tacos, laughter, art – and it’s all sacred. And we have a tendency to adopt a pretty cavalier attitude towards all of it.

This COVID-19 disruption in our lives is severe, unexpected, and has shown us just how much of our daily lives have been woefully taken for granted, how much has been mindless and unreflective. I miss my gym and the people there, especially my buddy Rick, and when I look back it’s shocking how little I appreciated my time there. I miss the hands I held and people I squeezed so deeply. I miss seeing people’s smiles at the grocery store. Small things, sure, but it’s the small things that create the texture for a life well lived. Like praying for another with a warm hand on a shoulder. Like the energy of a basketball game. Like a terrific meal in a crowded restaurant. Like breakfast together. Like a birthday party (or 2).

I think the Bible is the way it is because God knew us better than we know ourselves, knew that we would forget, knew that we would reduce each of these glorious blessings to tools, would reduce ourselves to consumers.

Hopefully, this reset is a gigantic reminder and when it’s over (and it will be over), we will take a bit more time to soak in the beauty of life. All of it. Hopefully, our time of mindlessness is already over and when we get to squeeze each other again (and we will get to squeeze each other again), we’ll squeeze each other with overwhelming gratitude for the God that made you, me, and the squeezing.

Catfish, pt 2 (or 3 or 4)

COVID-19 is now a fully political issue. Of course, it has always been a political issue (alcohol- and smoking-related illnesses kill far more than this virus could in any worst-case scenario, but they have much better public relations, more effective lobbyists, so we’ve decided we don’t care too much) but now we have straight party-line protests and “Republicans are now pro-choice” memes. Ah yes, the meme, an ultra-modern genre that feeds on generalized oversimplifications. This particular meme obviously goes both ways but the point of politically generalized oversimplifications is to ignore all that doesn’t support the opinion of the writer. Our hopes that this was a human issue that would bring us together and not a left/right issue have been dashed on the rocks of partisanship, replaced with the usual political maneuvering and more of the same acid-tongued sniping. It’s super depressing and has driven me to posting Red Hot Chili Peppers and Billy Idol album covers on Facebook just to break up the vitriol – I am now that guy. I swore I’d never be that guy, yet here we are.

Everybody knows I loooove the tv show Catfish, about people employing fake profiles online. They do this for any number of reasons (from romance to revenge) and the hosts/detectives track them down and expose them. The show began as a movie, also called Catfish, where the soon-to-be host of the tv show was himself “catfished.” He had fallen in love with a woman that turned out to be a married, middle-aged mother of 3. She had created several fake profiles to interact with each other on Facebook to add depth and reality to the deception.

When you watch the movie (or the show), as the ruse begins to unravel, you’ll feel some level of indignance – “How could they do that????!!?” – decide they are “monsters” and wish for their just desserts. You will get angry at their inhumanity, their vicious callousness at breaking another’s heart. They are the villains in the story, and we along with the victims are the righteous innocent.

In the movie, the filmmakers show up at her door and she continues to lie, as my mom says, like a rug. Finally, she is forced to come clean and the narrative transforms, as do our easy characterizations.

Earlier, I wrote that they do this “for any number of reasons,” and that’s not really true. They mostly do it to find a personal connection that has been lacking.

That sounds familiar, doesn’t it? We’re created for personal connection – this is undeniable, especially now.

But why have they decided that who they are isn’t good enough for this connection?

Well, why have we? Think of all the ways we compromise or cultivate an image that might be more appealing to him or her…because we aren’t satisfied with who we are, because we have believed that we aren’t good enough.

This woman, the “monster,” is a talented artist, 2 of the 3 children are severely disabled. In fact, they are step-children, she chose to marry a man and care for those 2 boys for the rest of their lives. She is intelligent and soft, empathetic and funny. She is terrific. She made a very poor catfishing decision out of loneliness and disconnect that she will regret forever, but it is something she did and not who she is.

I think Catfish should be required viewing for every human being living on earth. We easily fall into the trap where we think those who believe differently are dumb, inhumane, ignorant, misinformed, heartless, but they’re not. (Well, maybe they are, but not always;) Usually, they are exactly like you and me, formed by experiences, wounds, mistakes, ideas, environment, education, suffering, and on and on.

Every Catfish follows pretty much the same arc. Fingers crossed that the person is actually the person we think it is. This wish melts into broken-hearted sadness that what was hoped for, isn’t the reality. Finally, we rebound into a deeper understanding, where we see the other as they are, not an idealized picture on a screen and not the 2dimensional generalization based on their behavior and our fear. This last space can also be called love, where it’s not about control or our wants and desires, not about us at all. Love because it is free of our fearful boxes and labels, free of The Other, free of the desperate need to win (and for someone else to lose.)

Maybe this COVID-19 crisis is like that, too. Maybe this IS a human issue, a global act of grace, but we first have to get past the fearful grasping for what we want, what we think, what we need, before we can discover the love that has been there all along, just waiting for us to arrive.

Guidance/Approval

I’ve been reading the book of Jeremiah for a while now. Usually, we only read Jeremiah in 1-verse increments where the verse is always 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” It’s SUPER famous and perfect for bumper stickers and tattoos. Of course, it follows a 70-year exile and continues with some instructions to seek God with our whole heart, but that doesn’t play as well in a sound bite. We prefer to think about all the ways we want God to “prosper” us, which don’t always include exile.

In chapters 42 and 43, a military officer named Johanan calls for Jeremiah and asks for guidance from God. He promises to do whatever He and his buddies say, “May the Lord be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not act in accordance with everything the Lord your God sends you to tell us. Whether it is favorable or unfavorable, we will obey the Lord our God, to whom we are sending you, so that it will go well with us, for we will obey the Lord our God.” I do that, too, sometimes when I pray. Just save me, heal me, take this (whatever) away and I’ll do anything You ask.

Apparently, Jeremiah has heard all of this before, (for at least 42 chapters,) so when he gives the message from God to “NOT GO TO EGPYT,” he follows it up with, “And today I have told you exactly what he said, but you will not obey the Lord your God any better now than you have in the past. So you can be sure that you will die from war, famine, and disease in Egypt, where you insist on going.”

And of course, they DO go to Egypt, and it doesn’t go that well for them there.

The Bible happened, and the Bible happens. I think this Johanan is an imbecile, obviously, and could’ve saved himself all the trouble if he had only listened! God had plans for him, plans to prosper him and not harm him, but nooo, he had to do things his own way. I shake my head until my neck is sore at this prideful ignorance. And then, after I sit with this for a moment or a day or 20 years, I remember how often I ask for advice, or guidance, or direction when what I really want is approval. I want to be told that yes, my plan is just right. If I’m not told exactly that, then I move on and go to Egypt anyway. I am Johanan more times than I’d ever admit to you.

I want God to prosper me (but maybe prosperity means something different in God’s economy), to bless MY plans, to give me a hope and future as long as they’re the hopes and futures for which I’ve been praying (but maybe His idea of a hope and a future is different from mine.)

I want the control, I want to be right, I want to know, I want to go to Egypt. I used to think I had all the answers. Probably Johanan did, too. Probably going to Egypt sounded like a smart plan.

29:11 begins, “For I know…” Maybe I don’t have to know. Maybe it’s just enough that He does. And maybe that’s the point.

Patricia’s Blog – Living Water

[This post has been written by Patricia Snyder – Enjoy!! Love & Peace. Chad.]

John 4: 4-41. Living Water

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.[a]) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

At the well, Jesus meets the Samaritan woman and offers her living water. It was a place He shouldn’t have been, according to the culture of the day. It was a place where she went alone, away from the morning crowds. She went alone, maybe because in her culture she was considered immoral. Jesus doesn’t mince words when He points out her past. He speaks only the truth. It is this particular person that Jesus chose to approach. This is possibly the longest interaction, between Jesus and another person, that we read about in the Scripture. He asked her for water. He spoke truth to her about her life, a painful truth. He brought the truth from the places of her heart and from the voices of public gossip into Divine light and grace.

In the time of Jesus, living water also referred to water that flowed and moved as opposed to water that was still and stagnant. It was considered the most pure of waters and also used to cleanse oneself before entering the Temple. Living water cleansed and purified. This is what he offered her and offers us. With this water, not only will we never thirst, we will be cleansed and purified.

13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”17 “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

No matter what she did in her past or present, He chose to meet this person on that day. The water he offered could not be earned by any action or non action in her life. It could only be given.

This story has always struck a chord for me. It is one of the most powerful stories in the life of Christ. Christ met this woman, exactly where she was in her life. The truth of her life comes out of the mouth of the Savior, and in the very same encounter, He offers her everything her soul needs, truth and living water. He chose this woman to meet and carry a testimony of grace and love to others. 

Christ also meets us exactly where we are. Right now, many of us remain physically distant from those outside of our homes. Some folks are the helpers, going out, and with their servant hearts, they face the frontlines in a war zone. Some are the helpers behind the lines, doing what can be done to support others. Some of us are at home with others; some of us are alone. Some are ill. For some of us, this will be the most painful time of our lives. For some of us, this will be a revealing time. For some of us, this will be a growing and healing time. For some of us, this will be a time of great thirst and for some, a time of cleansing. For most of us, it will be a bit of everything.  

Every single one of us, Jesus will meet exactly where we are. He will meet us alone, and He knows every bit of our story.  He brings truth to Light. Our stories never stop Him. Nothing from our past or present stops Jesus. He offers us this living water, that purifies, cleanses and takes away every  thirst. 

Jesus will meet us in the fear, the aloneness, the togetherness, the loneliness, the growth, the despair, the grieving, the pain, and the joy. He will meet us in the desolation and the recovery. He will meet us with consolation and grace.

The other day I felt the warmth of tears come down my cheek.  They come more easily during this time. I remember the woman at the well and how Jesus asked her for water. She felt so inadequate. The weight of her culture and her life was upon her.  She asked Him, “How can you ask me for water?”  It occurred to me that sometimes all we have to give Jesus is the water of our tears. All we have is the water that carries part of our souls. The tears are so sacred in their journey from our heart and souls to the flowing of tears. There are times our soul overflows. It is sacred and holy water. I believe that Jesus asks us for that. He comes to our well, when we are alone, meets us where we are and asks us for water and sometimes tears are all that we can give. He takes our offering and reminds us that He has the water that quenches our souls for eternity and lifts us into the grace of God.  

21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” 26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

Imagine that. The Messiah revealed Himself to this particular woman and chose her to give testimony to her community. She is any one of us.

39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers

This encounter with the Samaritan woman is the same encounter that we are offered. He meets us where we are, and reveals Himself to us.  He is the Messiah! On Good Friday, we will be reminded again of the gift that our Savior gives us. From the cross, water from His side poured out; the gift of living water that “wells up to eternal life.”

We have more alone moments now. Maybe more than we did before. We may have more tears than we did before. The invitation remains. Christ will meet us exactly where we are with living water and grace. The only question remains is what we do with the gift that is offered.

Isaiah 12:2 God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. For the LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and He also has become my salvation.” 3With joy you will draw water from the springs of salvation.

Angel’s Blog – 10 High 5’s

[This has always been a space that was conceived to not only be a vehicle for me, but for the entire community.  So, with that in mind, it’s a perfect time to expand so that we can hear different perspectives, different voices. This is the first in what I hope will be many more. It has been written by my wife, Angel, and I know you’ll love it! Love & Peace. Chad.]

After working at home for 13 years, going back to work was a bit of a challenge.  It meant not being with my boys after school, not being able to prepare dinner every night for my family, not taking care of them like grocery shopping, cleaning the house, keeping up with the laundry, among other things.  My love language is acts of service, and quality time, so those 2 things were dramatically altered by working outside of the home.

Now I’m a person who loves people, so it was at the same time amazing to go to work every day and be around people, especially kids, and to take care of them in a variety of ways.  I love giving a kind smile to a kid who I know has an unstable home life.  I love that I have one student who comes into the office at the end of every day to give me, not 1 but 10 high 5’s, because that’s the kind of love and support we show each other.  I love that I get to share in the lives of our staff, weather they are celebrating something going really well for them, or walking quietly beside them while they are having a number of difficult and painful situations.  I really love my job!!

It’s funny how, being off for a period of time, it has not been easy to settle back into the “first” life I lived for many years.  It has been really nice being able to make dinner almost every night.  For my family to be able to eat dinner around the table almost every night, and have great conversations and then watch a nightly movie together.  It’s been awesome to have conversations with my boys about so many different things, and to go on long walks with my husband.  It has also been sad that I can’t give my co-worker a hug, who just lost her mother -in-law.  It’s been very sad that I can’t give another co-worker an encouraging look when I know he’s stressed and doing the very best he can to make everything right.

All at the same time, I can’t help but feel SUPER sad for those people who are not in the same boat as we are.  There are people who are struggling and who might not be able to pay their rent, or they might not have enough food, or they may not have a job to go back to because their small business will not be able to reopen when this is over.  I was very happy to hear that all school employees will be paid while schools are not in session.  That gave me some relief that at least many of the people I love and care for, will be taken care of.

Now let’s keep those others in our prayers and thoughts.  Let’s reach out where we can to love them, like we were called to do.  I loved it when the school was on the car parade, there were so many older people outside, soaking up others loving others.  Find a way to do that today.  Make a card for a neighbor and leave it on their doorstep, bake someone cookies, call a friend you haven’t talk to for a while, something!!  Think of a way to love someone.

I miss being around people and can’t wait to go back to work.  But I will NOT take for granted this precious time I get to have with my family.

Angel