Monthly Archives: September 2015

The Church Who Turned a Hungry Family Away

There is a sickness overtaking the modern American church. One of my friends actually has a tattoo of a dilapidated structure. When you look at the tattoo, you can see what’s wrong with the church from the sketch itself. The church is obviously teetering on its foundations—vast foundations, overladen with fancy artwork, expensive sculptures, and stuffed coffers.

I pictured this tattoo this morning when I got up and thought about this story I’d heard last night. There’s this lady in the American south, and I’m gonna leave the name of what state she lives in out of this story just in case she ever reads it, because I don’t wanna embarrass her. She and her family have fallen on hard times. Her husband works at a company that periodically lays off its employees, who are cruelly labeled as “independent contractors,” which really is a lark and a fraud, but this is Twenty-First Century America and most big corporations are living embodiments of the Scrooge . . . so anyway, her husband got laid off temporarily. And because of the way government and business share the same bedroll (after the corporation submits legal bribes from its payroll), the husband can’t collect unemployment . . . and by the time he finds a new job, he’s gonna get rehired again, based on past practices at least.

This family was making less than $1,500 a month, and now the primary wage earner’s been laid off. So the family’s in a pickle. This is a proud family. A good man, a good woman, two young kids too young to understand why their mom’s crying when she looks in the pantry and sees only a sack of old potatoes, maybe some two-week old bread, I dunno, maybe some butter. I haven’t been by their house or anything, but I know what desperation and an empty pantry feels like.

This family doesn’t go to church, not regularly, so for real, they’re like so many Americans. They don’t get much from the modern stand up and sit down, mumble some words and shake hands with the family behind you, but deep down they view church as what it was meant to be: a place of refuge, a source of hope and healing, a safe place where you can go when you can’t go anywhere else to get help.

So the mother walks down to the local church. She doesn’t drive because they can only afford to have one car, and her husband needs it. She also doesn’t want him to know she’s asking the church for help.

 

She gets there. A woman tells her to fill out some forms, and she’s thinking, forms, why? I just need some food. But she does what she’s told because we’ve all gotten used to doing what we’re told when we walk through the door of the ubiquitous American institution . . . there’s signs for everything and doors for everyone, but there’s no heart in these signs or these doors . . . I am roaming off topic again, sorry.

So she’s filling out these forms and trying so damn hard not to cry, and she’s wishing the lady would just see her pantry and how hungry she is, because she’s not eating. No mother would eat when there’s barely enough to feed her children . . . and none of the questions really are making much sense (why does a church sound like a creditor or an unemployment office? she’s asking herself), but she answers honestly and she tries not to bite her fingernails because coming to the church was a Hail Mary, and now she’s too scared to even think of Mary while she scribbles symbols on a white form.

I’ll skip ahead, you got other things to read and think about today. The intake clerk looks down over her glasses and says, “Your husband makes too much income to qualify for assistance.”

This is a true story. It’s why my friend has a tattoo of a broken church. This church supposedly represents God, but let me tell you, God never would turn away a hungry mother with two hungry children. No church should ever turn away those in need.

And this my friends, in a little more than 750 words, is why we’re building our own church. It’s really simple after all. Those who claim to serve God need to serve others, always. A church that won’t serve is no real church at all, and I’m not talking about meeting IRS requirements for grabbing tax-free treatment under Section 501(c)(3) of the Tax Code. I’m talking about satisfying a better, more loving master: the Lord who stands at the foundation of any real church. That Lord believes those who serve Him serve all others first.




Release! Wave Rising, Sequel to Best-selling Ripple

After two grueling years, I’m finally releasing the sequel to the best-selling Ripple. Wave Rising is a classic love story, abounding with hope and packed with healing. Like the other books I’m working on, it tries to entertain readers while also bringing spirituality back into religion. I’m a newly single mom with three kids, so if you grab a copy, the four dollars you spend will help us very much.

So what can you expect from Wave Rising? Reviewer Brie Grubbs writes this about it:

Phoebe Thompson was introduced to us in “Ripple” as a shattered, broken young woman, suffering the pain and confusion of being made a victim by someone she trusted. No child should ever have to go through that, but Phoebe’s story in Ripple gave girls like her hope- whether they were 13 or 30, victims or survivors.

Wave Rising

Wave Rising

The continuance of her story in “Wave Rising” gives us more than hope. It lights a fire within the soul to do precisely what Phoebe has done- take a horrible act and turn it into something that changes lives. And changing lives is precisely what E.L. [Phoenix] is doing. She addresses an issue that is still taboo, and smashes through the stigmas attached. Her words give a broken girl wings, and watching her soar- despite setbacks and hardships- is incredible.
Beautifully written, heart breakingly real, and scarily accurate, Wave Rising is a portrayal of how some stories like Phoebe’s turn out. The lucky ones, the strong ones, take the pain and turn it into wings, and their stories give those of us without them, and without a voice, hope that someday, we too can fly.

Wave is available on Amazon now. It will be available on all the other outlets sometime this week, and I’ll be publishing the paperback copy as soon as we make some final revisions to the cover.

Speaking of those revisions, I do have a new last name now, which reflects some of the grueling personal issues I’ve been experiencing. It took me years to be as strong in my own personal life as my characters are in their lives–indeed, it took me years to grow wings of my own. I believe there’s a gag order on what else I can say, or one’s been threatened. That of course is the nature of abuse: we’re either directly threatened all the time, or so used to being threatened on a constant basis by men who tell you that “abuse is the most over-used word in the English language” that we shrink back from saying what we really mean. I look forward to helping create a world where women can stop fearing to speak, to live, to love, and to rise to their full potential. But I for one am no longer living in fear.

The other thing I am gonna go ahead and say is this. I did break free. But in some respects my wings are still a bit weak. For now, I am not receiving any child support. As I explained to one of my friends this morning, I came from Phoebe’s side of the tracks. This is the first time I’ve experienced financial hardship of any real sort, and I’m actually grateful for some of these sorts of tribulations, because they’re making me a better soul, more about to serve and understand those I serve.

There is one thing you can really do that will help my children and I: please buy my book, and tell your friends it’s a good read. And if you’re able to leave a review, I promise you that review will help me very much. Reviews sell books, and each book I sell helps my children and I out so very much.

 




Notes on Kim Davis: Jesus, Gays, and the New Testament

According to some folks like the now infamous Kentucky Clerk, Kim Davis, homosexuality is a sin and God says so. And supposedly God’s condemnation of homosexuals is permanently enshrined in certain rules set forth in various old books like Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy in the Old Testament. According to people like Kim Davis, following Jesus means we are supposed to discriminate against gays.

If Kim Davis were to have her way and enforce the rules contained in the first few books of the Bible, then we have to accept that Jesus meant very little, that he was not really the Son of God, and that his Crucifixion meant nothing. We’d have to reject the entire point of the New Covenant he made with us on God’s behalf. And we’d have to accept that all the laws mentioned in the Old Testament were still in effect. We would also have to ignore the entirety of the New Testament, not to mention pretty much all of what Jesus actually said when he was here.

So according to this way of thinking, according to self-appointed martyrs like Kim Davis, homosexuality is detestable. Lev. 18:22. Anyone who works on the Sabbath (Saturday or Sunday, depending on what rule-book you’re using) must be PUT TO DEATH. Ex. 35:2. You can sell your daughter into slavery if you’re her father. Ex. 21:7. But if you’re her mother, you could be sold too. Ex. 21:2. That is, you could be separated from your husband and kept by the master. Oh, and slavery? Still okay. Ex. 21:2. And you can beat your slave so severely, he’ll be laid up for days, but so long as you don’t kill him, that’s okay. Ex. 21:20. Just to make this clear: under the Old Testament, it’s no problem to own slaves, beat them, or divide wife and child slave from husband. Perfectly okay.

Also according to the six hundred and twenty two or so Old Testament laws, you could be punished for planting corn and wheat side by side. Lev. 19:19. And your mother could be punished for wearing a garment made from two different types of threads. Lev. 19:19. If you, like most teenagers, cursed your mom or dad, then you would be put to death. Ex. 21:17. Also, vast portions of Leviticus are dedicated to setting forth the process, system, and rules for making blood sacrifices of animals—a practice generally considered repugnant to the modern mindset.

Priests must only marry single women who haven’t been divorced or who aren’t promiscuous. Lev. 21:7. Those priests can’t cut their hair too short and must leave their beards really long. Lev. 21:5. If a priest’s daughter becomes a prostitute, she must be burned in fire. That’s real, actual fire. Lev. 21:9. No one with a defect or handicap whatsoever may be a priest who touches food to offer up to God—which was a cherished role of course. Lev. 21:16-23. So discriminating against the handicapped under the Old Testament guidelines is absolutely fine.

If a man has sex with a woman during her period, they must both be exiled. Lev. 20:18. The rules for how a woman becomes clean again are too long to list but feel free to read about that long process in Leviticus. While you’re reading that, you might see that any adulterers, and that includes you, Josh Dugan, must be put to death. Lev. 20:10. And whatever you do, please don’t check your horoscope. Anyone who consults psychics or mediums will be exiled. Lev. 20:6. Oh, and do NOT get tattoos. Lev. 19:28. The punishment for painting daisies on your arm might be dire.

If you’re cringing, don’t worry. Yeah all this sounds awful, but every single one of these rules was thrown out the window when Jesus, Son of God, strolled into the town square and announced that he was bearing a beautiful gift to God’s people: a new system, a new Way, a new deal. In other words, in the words of the great scholar Barnabus, who was Jesus’s brother through marriage, wrote in the gospel of Hebrews, Jesus was sacrificed once to do away with all man’s prior sins under the Old Testament. Hebrews 10:5. Jesus made a new covenant with us. “By calling this covenant ‘new,’ he has made the first one [the first covenants made under the Old Testament] obsolete, and what is obsolete and aging with soon disappear.” Hebrews 8:13.

It isn’t only Barnabus in Hebrews who announced that Jesus came with a new covenant, or new set of agreements. That’s what a covenant is. It’s like a will; in fact, that’s how this concept of sealing a covenant with blood first arose. As Barnabus explains in Hebrews 9:16-28, in the old days, in the case of a will, you had to prove the person was dead. Now, this was a tribal society, so this might sound . . . backward. Whatever. We shouldn’t judge. But to prove that the deceased was dead, you actually needed blood. This is one of the legal reasons why the blood of an animal was required to be shown: otherwise, folks wouldn’t actually kill their (money-making) cows when they were supposed to.

Blood. It was required by the old covenants as set forth in the Old Testament, and if there “has been nothing wrong that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another.” Hebrews 8: 7. But again and again, the original Jews failed to uphold their side of the agreement. And as the prophet Jeremiah promised, the time would come when God would make a new covenant with the people. When he made this covenant, he would “put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts.” Jer. 31:33; See also Is. 61:8. The coming of both John the Baptist as well as the Messiah, of Jesus, was promised in Isaiah. See Is. 40:3.

And once Jesus arrived, he would turn the old ways upside down. When he got here, he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” See Hebrews 10:9-10. He set aside the old covenant or the first covenant to establish a second one—a better one for all of us. By his sacrifice, in other words, the people of his time were all made holy or were redeemed and no one needed to comply with the old laws that were secured by the Old Covenant. Hebrews 10:10.

Jesus himself spoke of the New Covenant. At the Last Supper, Jesus said that the wine they were drinking was the blood of his new covenant. “This is my blood of the Covenant, which is poured out for many.” Mark 14:24. He also said in Matthew, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for the forgiveness of sins.” Matthew 26:26. And in Luke, he said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” Luke 22:20. Once Jesus was sacrificed, there was to be no more blood and no more enforcement of the Old Covenants.

The entire point of Jesus’ death vanishes if he wasn’t bringing us a new covenant in God’s name. Otherwise, he was just another martyr. But Jesus was absolutely not just a martyr. He was a negotiator, an intermediary, a messenger who bore God’s seal. He was God’s son and has the full and complete authority to give us a better path Home.

And Jesus was crystal clear about it. He was here on God’s behalf and he was negotiating a better agreement with God’s people: one that required less compliance; one unshackled by draconian rules; one that had bore little resemblance to the old fear-based and strict governance; and one that called for a completely different way of living than was called for in Deuteronomy, Leviticus and Exodus. Indeed, that’s why Jesus said that he was The Way—he meant that if you embraced and accepted his teachings and lived as he lived, you would find salvation.

Before I talk about how Jesus lived, I want to talk about Jesus’ dying wish, and I want to make an appeal to all souls that mimics that dying wish. When Jesus spoke the last time to a large crowd, about a week before his crucifixion, he said farewell, and in that farewell speech, he appealed for unity. He said, “I pray also for those who will believe in me through my disciples’ message, that all of them may be One.” John 17:20. Indeed, the deeper message behind the concept of “no more blood” is that fighting over God or in God’s name would end, and that all souls would work together to make the world a better place for all. Or as Jesus eloquently said, “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one.” John 17:22.

Jesus doesn’t want us fighting with one another. His way of living demands that we walk with one another and follow his way of living. Or as he said in his farewell speech, as recorded in John, “You sent me down so that I could give eternal life to all those you sent me to talk to. This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, who you sent.” John 17:2. In other words, the best way to know God, to be godly, is to walk the same way Jesus walked. To know Jesus and to live like Jesus helps you get closer to God.

What does it mean to know Jesus? Well, you need to understand his basic teachings. And before I go over that, let me tell you one thing he never talked about: homosexuality. He barely talked about marriage (other than to say it was a good thing to be faithful to the one you married—which holds none of the brimstone and fear augured by the provisions in the Old Testament that condemned adulterers to severe punishments like stoning and death). He went out of his way, in fact, to prevent anyone from attacking or otherwise criticizing, condemning (much less judging) an adulterous woman. Jesus did not frequent the high-end, the upper classes, or the religiously established members of his society; in fact, he walked and talked with women, children, those of different skin color, foreigners, and social outcasts. Jesus was radically accepting, in other words, of sinners. He never cast stones at another soul, and even when a close friend betrayed him, he forgave the betrayal and welcomed that disciple (Peter) back into the fold.

Jesus never told you to hate gays, in other words, and he certainly did not coin the bogus expression, “Hate the sin, not the sinner.” He just didn’t think like that. He told us not to worry about the sins others committed, because each and every one of us makes mistakes and breaks rules and makes regrettable decisions. Jesus told us to focus on taking care of other souls, on our own salvation, and on matters not worldly.

Jesus always obeyed his Father, and he told his disciples to “obey my commands and you will remain in my love. Obey my commands as I obey my Father. My command is this—love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one that this—that he lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:10-13. This single command was so important, Jesus repeated in a little later: “This is my command: love each other.”

AP GAY MARRIAGE KENTUCKY A USA KY

(Photo: Carter County Detention Center via AP)

Jesus also explained, in a sentence that has been vastly misquoted and misunderstood, that he was the way and the truth and the life. John 15:17. He was not saying that the only way Home was by announcing loudly to your friends that Jesus Christ is your savior. He didn’t think of it as a zero-sum “choose the right team” sort of game. What he was saying is that he lived as he taught and that his life as well as his teachings represent how we should live in order to find salvation.

Let me repeat that: if we live as Jesus lived and apply his teachings to our own lives, we will be better souls for it. SO how did Jesus live? Well, aside from working tirelessly to help and heal the sick, the needy, the sinners, he had a family. He was married to Mary Magdalene and they had two children. So in some ways, Jesus was a family man.

But as much as he loved his family, he put service to the Lord and service to others first. As a servant of the Lord, he opposed tyrannical and judgmental religious institutions. He gave lavishly to others and took no pay. He taught anyone who would listen. He defended sinners, refused to obey silly laws from the Old Testament, talked to women, convicts, homeless men, children—and helped every soul he could, either physically or by giving spiritual instruction.

Jesus was accompanied almost always by his son and often by his wife and daughter during his travels. In addition, his brother in law, uncle, sister-in-law, and several other family members lived with him in Bethany and helped him in his ministry. In other words, Jesus was far from a lone wolf.

How else did Jesus live? He came out of nowhere and was not accepted as a prophet in his hometown. He traveled extensively as a child and as a man.

Jesus shared his possessions with close family as well as extended family. He helped out some with the family business until he began his ministry; afterwards, he walked and talked all day and told his followers to cherish the Kingdom of God rather than the things of this world. He was radically forgiving and nonjudgmental, as I mentioned before, and he tolerated those who were different than him.

As far as religious institutions, again, Jesus obeyed none. But unlike Kim Davis, he did obey political institutions. That was the entire point, after all, of his “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s”. Matthew 22:21. Again, he wasn’t here to start a political revolution. He was here to call souls Home and to change the spiritual ways of humans.

As I mentioned above, Jesus did, however, disobey religious authorities. Indeed, he obeyed no rabbi or priest. He didn’t even propagate the practices of the Essene monks, who gave him and his son (as well as John the Baptist) their training. He obeyed God only (which means he listened to God and was able to communicate effectively with souls who were not in physical form). He embraced individuals rather than institutions, and he told people that the key to their salvation lay within them—which was a radically egalitarian and empowering teaching. Indeed, Jesus started a revolution, but a peaceful one, and he unhesitatingly disobeyed any religious rules that got in the way of serving others or which lacked compassion or obstructed healing or charity.

Jesus went to God directly, and he used no intermediaries to communicate with his Father. That was of course unusual, but what was truly revolutionary is that he taught his followers to go directly to God as well. He brought with him the Counselor, or the Holy Spirit, and told everyone that they too could talk to Home without needing or using earthly intermediaries. In other words, Jesus did not establish a rapacious church and he certainly did not establish a greedy gatekeeper who had the right to demand payment for salvation. Jesus taught that salvation was between each soul and God and was found by those who lived as he lived while here on earth. The concept of a class of priests or appointed salvation or heavenly bill collectors was not one Jesus taught.

As a teacher, Jesus taught on two levels. To the masses, he talked in parables and taught the basics. To his closest disciples, including his son, Mark, or St. Mark as he was ironically enough later known, Jesus taught the gnostic or deeper meanings. Jesus taught from the Eastern ways, the Egyptian schools, as well as from the Old Testament or Jewish traditions without discriminating or caring who he offended. He also exercised yogic discipline to overcome pain. He also fought demons and grappled with the Enemy bravely and without fail.

Jesus, however, did not often fight or argue. Often, he was prudent and retreated when outnumbered or when physically threatened. He was determined to fulfill his mission and not get killed before he had reached the people with his beautiful message. He prayed and meditated, often alone, and lived as an ordinary man (part scholar, part carpenter, part traveler) until he was called. He didn’t care about the opinions of others, and he was not a fancy dresser or materialistic in any way. While Jesus was not a rich man, he did have the financial resources of a fairly well off extended family and he had a great deal of family support throughout his mission.

The only absolute Jesus spoke of was love. He was very emotional, cried often and openly, and he hugged tightly. He talked to anyone and everyone always teaching, helping, and serving.

While Jesus walked and talked, he performed many miracles—but not alone. His Father was there in soul form, helping, and so were several other top level Master Archangels. Knowing all this, Jesus was both humble, knowing that everything he accomplished was in God’s name and with God’s help as well as confident. After all, Jesus is God’s only son. And that’s a pretty neat thing to be.

 




Red Herrings and the Case for Illegal Immigrants

The Jorge Ramos dustup at Donald Trump’s press conference has led many friends to post things on social media regarding illegal immigration. Tonight, I read one comment too many that amounted to a red herring argument regarding “illegal immigrants.” “Hey,” they say, “I just want folks to obey the laws and immigrate into the United States legally.” I hear that and I shake my head, because the concept of what’s legal all too often belies what is right and moral, compassionate and decent.

Jorge Ramos, pic from Wikipedia

Jorge Ramos. Picture from Wikipedia

Indeed, the law itself regarding immigration has often proven not only counter to human rights, but downright disgusting. Take slavery. It was legal. And so was importation of slaves–who were, after all, immigrants. Let’s be clear: the way blacks were brought into America as unwilling immigrants was absolutely “legal”. So if you wanna fixate on what was and wasn’t legal, then you’re missing the chance to think in terms of morality and compassion.

Indeed, many laws result in harming individual souls, and among those laws I would include all the ones that have been used by the majority to suppress the rights and interests of the minority throughout the two hundred-plus years of American history. Laws, for example, like those used by southern states to terrorize “free” blacks for over one hundred years even after slavery was outlawed; laws like ones that made it illegal for women to vote, hold property, or obtain a divorce from an abusive husband; laws that allowed corporations to pollute and destroy the land . . . I  could go on, but hopefully you understand my point. Laws, my friends, are only as good as the citizens who pass them, and the current laws regarding immigration do not protect the rights of disenfranchised and desperate souls who need our protection rather than condemnation.

You’re opposed to illegal immigrants? You think Donald Trump was right the other day when he told Jorge Ramos to “go back to Univision?” I understand that some illegal immigrants come into this country, well, illegally. But some laws are bad laws, and I think the current laws on immigration are callous, inhumane, and bad for humanity.

But just as human hearts can change, so too can laws. I say change the laws and save some souls. After all, the laws of this land are here to protect individuals and the Shining City on a Hill was a promise that belongs to all souls. Not just the ones who grabbed the first tent closest to the stage.




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