Healing our nation at the cellular level

I can’t think of anything more polarizing these days than my social media feed. It’s easy to sit with my device and post arguments and counter-arguments, but it’s a whole different conversation with a family member, church connection, co-worker, or friend, face-to-face.  Social media affords us the opportunity to build personal communities of “friends” who vote, worship, eat, and work just like we do.

People who once were friends, “unfriend.” Posts often include, “If you voted for ___,” or “If you support ___,”  “Go ahead and unfriend me now.” Other posts state that if you believe/think/vote for/participate in ____ you are generalized into an extreme group of one party, category, or subgroup. Some include headlines, videos, or articles where the re-poster asks, “Is this who we’ve become?”

That question begs introspection of all of us. Who are we? Who do we want to be? What changes must we make to get there?

The more I ruminate, the more I’m convinced that healing for our nation must happen at the cellular level. We have to be able to see past the rhetoric, smoke screens, and talking heads, to see individuals who are often far more than a viewpoint. If someone is at a place where they simply cannot accept any perspective but their own, by all means, “unfriending” might be the gift they give the universe, but real change happens when we are able to find common ground and build on what unites.

We have to stop gloating when “our side wins,” and instead walk in humility! 

Cells combine to form tissues, organs, and organisms to form our bodies as a whole. They are the most basic structural units of the human body, and it’s often at the cellular level where sickness and disease take root. Social media posts and news headlines reveal that our nation is weakened at the most basic cellular level.

I don’t negate the issues that divide us are real, impassioned, cellular-level, core convictions that guide each individual and I’m not suggesting we sacrifice our beliefs on the altar of unity. I just can’t help but wonder what would happen if we put partisanship aside and truly focused on finding a way forward despite our differences.

Studies show that proper nutrition, especially a plant-centered diet, has the potential to reverse genes that cause heart disease, cancer, and other illnesses and turn on genes that prevent disease.  An article by Project CBD explains the benefits cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) can have on our body’s cellular system. Other studies show how meditation, exercise, and deep restorative sleep can change our bodies at the cellular level.

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If we can change that which causes disease and illness at the cellular level in our bodies, can we also evoke change in our nation with contemplative and intercessory prayer, positive social actions at the local level, deepened personal relationships, and increased involvement in our own communities?

In Romans 12:9-21 the apostle Paul writes, “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him, if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (NIV version)

Or in the words Henri Nouwen, “Did I offer peace today? Did I bring a smile to someone’s face? Did I say words of healing? Did I let go of my anger and resentment? Did I forgive? Did I love? These are the real questions. I must trust that the little bit of love that I sow now will bear many fruits, here in this world and the life to come.”

What if we loved sincerely, hated evil, clung to good, was devoted to one another in love, and we honored one another above ourselves? What would that look like? Would that be the change that helps us become what we know we can and should be? What if we approached our conversations, our social media posts, our relationships with these measures? Could that help heal our nation at the cellular level and in turn, change our world?

Grieving and healing together, as individuals

Often there are people around us who are also impacted by the source of our grief. Certainly our family and friends grieved in their own way for the death of our daughter. Looking back, I can see more clearly how each of them expressed their grief and love in their unique ways. I am so grateful for everyone who has walked this road with us.

I flung myself to the floor, weeping, alone for the first time since Sadie died

The doorbell rang, our neighbor an awkward witness to my uninhibited grief

She brought a beautiful hanging basket and said, “I’m so sorry”

Family cleaned, weeded flower beds, and snapped buckets of green beans and shucked copious amounts of corn on the cob to feed those gathered

Their presence comforted me

Daddy went grocery shopping

I still have the green bottle of Gain laundry detergent, empty now, but a reminder of their coming together and of my sweet Sadie Rose

Not all of them came together for the happiest day of my life, but they did for the saddest

That laundry detergent bottle reminds me so

Two sisters with small infants shied away at first, but upon my request brought their babies for me to hold

They cried survivor’s guilt tears as I held their little ones and wept for my Sadie

They didn’t want to know the pain of empty arms, but they also didn’t understand why they were so blessed

I marveled at the perfection of their tiny infants and knew Sadie was perfect in her own little way

My niece, then 12 years old, brought a red balloon and asked us to write notes to Sadie

We released it in our backyard, our younger nieces and nephews intrigued by the tears but delighted by the floating red heart carried away into the sunset

We sat around her grave on a beautiful Saturday afternoon

Nieces and nephews laid stuffed toys on her tiny white casket

We sang Jesus loves me

My father-in-law coughed and rubbed his eyes, grief had snuck up on his stoic composed form

My husband looked off into the distance, always far away, I wondered if he would ever come back

But he did, he would come back for a while to find me

Crumpled in a heap on the shower floor or staring out the window into the night

We fluctuated back and forth, being strong while the other was weak and vice versa

Another sister came after her farm chores

We dunked chocolate-dipped biscotti into our coffee until our stomachs hurt, mostly silent, with occasional bursts of detail accompanied by grunts and nods

Together we grieved, as individuals

Together we remember and heal

Spiritual pride versus truth in love

Her dark brown hair was pulled back into a tight bun. On top was a perfectly placed white head covering, complete with white strings, her modest caped dress hung well below her knees. The 17-year-old scooped ice cream from the cooler as she tried to place the customer’s accent.

“Why do you wear that,” He asked, pointing to her head.

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As a young lady (Sorry I con’t figure out how to rotate the photo)

She referenced 1 Corinthians 11 where Paul instructs women to keep their heads covered and Ephesians 5 where the Paul tells women to submit to their husbands. That’s the only answer she knew. Not too long prior, she had called her older sister who had stopped wearing the covering, pleading with her to come back to the faith.

“I’m curious,” the customer continued, “I’d like to know more about your religion. Come see me at the table over there when you get a break.”

She was used to people’s questions and curiosity. She was curious about him. Her first free moment, she walked over to the table where he waited patiently. Their conversation flowed easily. He was a businessman from South Africa and that brought him to the area. He had never seen Mennonites before and had lots of questions about their faith.

“What do they believe about the Holy Trinity,” he asked.

“The what?” She replied.

“The Holy Trinity, you know, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”

“Um, I don’t really know,” She muttered, embarrassed. “I’m not sure I really know much about the Holy Spirit.”

“Wow! Really?!” He gasped. “You don’t know what you are missing out on!”

He went to great lengths to share with her how the Holy Spirit guides, convicts, woos, calls, changes, sets free. He told her that while he respected her religion, it seemed to come with a great deal of bondage, unlike the freedom Christ offers. He shared enthusiastically, but with love and joy, not condemning or mocking like she was used to from those who didn’t understand her religion. He seemed to understand that her faith was not just a personal interpretation of Scripture, but was rooted in generations of tradition and ritual that had become her very identity. In her mind she was wondering what kind of flake she was talking to, but something in her spirit stirred.

I am that girl.

Charles and I stayed in touch, writing occasionally, even though I never saw him again. Several years went by. I eventually stopped wearing the head covering and plain clothes and at some point the letters from Charles ceased. I never gave it much thought. I was always amazed he had taken so much time and interest in a little Mennonite girl from across the pond anyway.

Then one day I received another letter post-marked South Africa. This time it was Charles’ mother telling me he had died unexpectedly of a heart attack at 42 years old. While she grieved she consoled me, his long distance friend, that he was ready to meet God and that he would be waiting for us when our time came. She told me that he had often spoken of me to her and that he was excited about the freedom I was finding in my own relationship with God.

I still have a refrigerator magnet he sent me some twenty years ago. Every time it catches my eye, I thank God for sending Charles my way.

As my freedom grew, so did my “Holy Spirit Fire.” I wanted everyone to have a taste of this freedom. I shared with anyone and everyone with or without their consent. I knew the truth and it had set me free.

I got bold with my new-found freedom, but not everyone was ready to be enlightened. I could rapid-fire loveless truth bullets faster than lightening, leaving a trail of stunned, wounded loved ones in my wake.

One day I drove my rusty (not-so-trusty) Chevy Blazer to an Old Order Mennonite preacher’s house, kicking up a trail of dust as I barreled down the long gravel driveway. I caught him completely off-guard in the garden and demanded answers to questions about this faith I’d always had, but was too afraid to ask before. By this point I had studied Scripture on my own and I had a Scriptural rebuttal for every single answer he gave me. He was speechless and I was proud.

Nobody won that day. Although I did eventually gain a reputation as a “Scripture authority to be reckoned with,” I lost friends. A lot of them. No one wanted this freedom I had when it caused me to be arrogant and heartless toward those who understood and interpreted Scripture differently than I.

Over time my message softened. I began to remember where I’d come from and how firmly and faithfully I believed what I believed, despite the bondage. I no longer consider myself any more enlightened than the next person, because we are all on an individual faith journey. I also came to love and cherish the foundations of my faith formed in youth and childhood.

We can boldly proclaim our freedom and enlightenment all day long, but I quote Paul in Galatians 5:13-15 NLT. “For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Be aware of destroying one another.”

I go back to my story about Charles. If he had presented his Holy Spirit theology in an arrogant or demeaning way, I would never have listened. I would have been defensive and closed, spouting off my rhetorical answers like a pre-programmed champion. But instead he shared with love and my spirit resonated with his words.

We can dispute our theologies all day long, we can argue man’s laws and God’s laws, and which ones were historical and cultural and which ones are timeless and eternal. But this I can assure you, “the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is NO LAW against these things.” (Galatians 5:22-23 NLT). Emphasis mine.

There will always be people who disagree or understand differently. We should expect and respect that. But they are living as faithfully to the Gospel as they understand it. I am always eager to break bread together, to share honestly and openly and safely, and to learn from one another. I am faithfully living out my call as best as I can understand it with my finite and imperfect being and enjoy walking this road with others.

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Our faith stories are important. Let’s not diminish or hinder the work of God in one another with loveless truth bullets that maim and wound other parts of the body who understand and interpret Scripture differently. Find common ground and build trusting relationships with people outside of your circle of influence and see what fruit grows. Seeds sown in discourse and contention will reap simply that. Seeds sown in love… Well…

Hebrews 10:24 NLT “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.”

Experiencing the holy in everyday moments

I was excited about participating in a “NuDunkers On Pneumatology” online discussion this morning. Pneumatology is just a fancy word for the theologies of the Holy Spirit. With a 4-year-old and a 17-month-old at home, I prepared ahead of time to make sure I would have the perfect quiet atmosphere for the discussion of this fascinating topic.

Yeah right!

Instead of reflective and educated ruminations about the Holy Spirit, I was saying things, “Elsie, get Eli’s underwear off your head.” “Eli, don’t sit on top of Elsie and stop pulling the dog’s ears.” This, all while listening as best I can to an honest and through-provoking discussion about the Holy Spirit.

But this is the beauty of my life; holy moments wrapped in the humdrum of the everyday. My life has many seemingly insignificant moments and yet when I pause and pay attention, I hear the whispers of God in it all. And in my personal experience, that is my pneumatology of the Holy Spirit.

Why Jesus Gets a Bad Rap

In a recent conversation, I found that someone I know didn’t have much love for another person I hold dear. I immediately got defensive because I knew that this person really didn’t know my loved one that well. If they could see past the exterior, I believed that they would have a whole new respect and care for the other person.

As with every situation that leaves me feeling unsettled or uncomfortable, I asked myself what I can learn from it.

From that perspective, I thought about how and why Jesus gets a bad rap.

Continue reading “Why Jesus Gets a Bad Rap”

Welcome

Well, I’ve “gone and done it” now. Welcome to my blog. The place where randomness meets contemplative-ness. (Excuse the home-made word there.)

Hopefully we’ll engage in “conversation” here and people will be inspired, encouraged and humored.

This blog has been a long time coming, now we’ll see where it goes. See the “About” page for my reasons for undertaking yet another project. This blog just might be the link that brings all my writings full-circle.

Cheers,

Regina