And Coming in 2016....

"She-Bear in the Beautiful Garden," to be published by Cranberry Quill... an allegory for children of all ages, beautifully illustrated.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Twisted

The year I was born (1957), Time  magazine ran an article in which Mickey Cohen, an infamous member of the Jewish-American mafia, met with evangelist Billy Graham. Cohen was quoted as saying, "I am very high on the Christian way of life. Billy came up, and before we had food he said—What do you call it. that thing they say before food? Grace? Yeah, grace. Then we talked a lot about Christianity and stuff." 


Cohen had a co-worker, a wiretapper by trade, who became a Christian through Graham's ministry. This, understandably, intrigued Cohen. Although the wiretapper, Jim Vaus, walked away from the mafia, Cohen's personal interest did not include such a radical change of lifestyle. When questioned, his response was that there are  "Christian football players, Christian cowboys, Christian politicians; why not a Christian gangster?"


In an award-winning 2011 article about Cohen in the Benicia Herald, writer Robert Michaels says that a friend of his coined a word for this particular brand of Christianity. "He calls it 'Twistianity.' Twistians are people who claim Christ as Savior, but do not want to submit their lives under His Lordship. They twist or pervert the Gospel so they can remain in their sin."


Michaels won an Award of Outstanding Merit ($1000) from the Amy Foundation, which benefits writers who communicate biblical truth to secular audiences. Over the years, I have submitted entries myself. When I read Michaels' article today, I looked....as people with my particular bent to introspection are wont to do...to myself.


I sin every day, in word and deed and thought. Long an advocate of the Christianese sound byte "Jesus is Lord of all, or He is not Lord at all" I had to stop. Take inventory. Look directly into the mirror.


What am I, really, accomplishing for the Kingdom of God? You can't rest on your laurels. You can't make it on the coattails of others, or even your own former ministry. Who am I TODAY? 


"Am I a Twistian?" I whispered in my heart of hearts. 


"You are my daughter," came that sweet inner voice that I presumptuously attribute to the Holy Spirit.


I know what it is to have a daughter. I am blessed to have two. Occasionally, over the last 30-plus years, I have had reasons to be angry with them. I have been disappointed by their choices or behavior. And...let's be real here...they have both had occasion to be angry at and disappointed by me! But just as my parents taught me, I taught them: there is nothing you can say or do that will mean I no longer love you.


Did Cohen love Jesus? I have no idea. He may have liked the idea of Christianity, the way some people fall in love with the idea of love and romance. The packaging is good, but commitment is never a priority. As long as it's easy, as long as nothing much is expected, then fine. Cohen may never have crossed the line, may never have accepted Jesus as Messiah. That's not for me to judge. Not my call.


But as for me, yes. I acknowledge that the historical Jesus (no thinking person really questions his existence) is Messiah, the Son of God sent from eternity-past-present-future (I don't have much of a handle on the whole eternity gig) to reconcile sinful humankind back to a love relationship with its Creator, whom we know, simply and imperfectly, as "God."


Death was a necessary part of the process. Instead of everyone who sins bloodying the earth with sacrifices (and yeah, I'm not solid on what the whole blood thing was all about either), God gave himself, his own Son, his essence, to die as a man...so holy and perfect that that one sacrifice took away the penalty for every sin. Potentially - faith is involved. It's done, but you have to believe it. Real belief, faith, isn't just about a warm fuzzy feeling, after all, but about action, decision, acceptance.


Jesus died for all sin. For me. Jesus is, therefore, my Lord. My soul's King. My heart's destination.


And yet. 


And yet, this daughter is so weak, so disappointing, I know, to my heavenly Father. He gives me the grace and ability, the spiritual tools, to grow into his likeness, and I am still so very far from achieving that. So many ways, every single damn day of the year, that I fall short of the perfection he embodies. He is holy; I am just the opposite. He is the personification of love itself, and I fail to love, not really, not even the most lovable around me. And let's not even talk about loving my enemies, or the unlovely. 


It's not just the things I'm not sure about, either. I sin blatantly! I don't fall into sin....as my friend Doug Easterday says, I jump into it like a kid into a pile of newly raked autumn leaves shouting "Wheeeeeeeeee!" at the top of my lungs.


And yet.


 I am still a daughter, still loved. Not because of who I am, but because my Daddy is so grand. Twistian? Not hardly. I'm not even worthy to be called that. But daughter? Yeah, I'll take that. Any day of the week.


Permission to use with acknowledgement of source. (C) Ellen Gillette, 2012

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Rainbow Revelation

Pollyanna hit the big screen with Hayley Mills in 1960--I was almost three at the time, so it's likely that I didn't see the movie until it came on television. But by the time I saw it, and saw her using prisms to make little rainbows on the walls, I knew what she was doing. Grandma Polly had a beautiful lamp in her living room with cut glass dangly things, just like in the movie, and my sister and cousins and I loved making rainbows too.


If you're like me, you still get excited by rainbows in nature. They're little surprises, aren't they, like spotting a mother duck and ducklings waddling across a busy street? We know they exist, they aren't exotic or rare, but we don't expect to see them every day, either. When we round a curve and are treated by a gloriously vivid rainbow, it takes our breath away.


Every couple of weeks, I try to plan a day off from the stress and responsibility of Real Life. I call  these little trips my visits to the parallel universe. The phone is turned off, or set to vibrate, but the family is cautioned not to call unless blood is involved. A lot of blood. I take my laptop, current read, perhaps a bathing suit in case I find a beach, get in the car, and drive. Sometimes I head north, sometimes south. Most often, it seems, the car goes west.


Route 60 W in central Florida doesn't have a lot going for it--unless you're hungry for peace and quiet and simple. Once you get past Yeehaw Junction, you'll see cows. Scrub oaks. Palmettos. Signs for this and that here and there, but mostly a lot of sweet, serene nothing. As the ridge of the state rises and you climb to Lake Wales, there are all kinds of things to see and do, but until you get there, well, you can just sit back and listen to music or sing or pray or practice upcoming speeches...that's what I do, anyway.


Coming home at the end of a restful day, this being Florida, I often run into rain. Or a rainbow. Or both. Even though I know that a rainbow is nothing more, technically speaking, than an example of refracted light, it always feels like a sign. An omen of good things. A promise.


Rainbows have been written about and discussed for thousands and thousands of years, everyone from Aristotle to Newton . In Genesis 9, only a few chapters after everything started, God places a rainbow in the sky as a sign of his promise not to destroy the earth by water again. Noah and the ark, two-by-two...hopefully, you went to enough Sunday school to get the gist without going through the whole thing again. 


The science of rainbows is pretty basic. White light is bent, or refracted, by a glass prism and our eyes see individual colors. With a rainbow, sunlight disperses through moisture in the air and we get the same effect on a spectacular level.


Scripturally, there are many references to God's light. He spoke earthly light into existence (Genesis 1:3), he is our light and our salvation (Psalm 27:1), his words are a light to our path (Psalm 119:105), Jesus was called his followers the light of the world (Matthew 5:14), God dwells in unapproachable light (1 Timothy 6:16). 


Despite all the light that's there, however, it dawned on me this week that I tend to think of spiritual matters in black and white terms....or did in years past. I've noticed as I've gotten older --does everything change when you hit 50?-- that I've made my peace with some of those shades of grey along the spectrum (not as in the wildly successful erotica Fifty Shades of Grey...haven't read that yet!). Still, though, those extremes loom large. Good v. evil. Righteousness, holiness, perfection. Sin, depravity, gloom and doom. Heaven. Hell. Us. Them.


It suddenly occurred to me, however, seeing a rainbow on Route 60 while basking in the afterglow of a wonderful day off, that light  is anything but shades of grey. It is glorious, beautiful red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet --and those are just the main colors as Newton listed them. Every band melts into the next. Rainbows are like peacocks--there's no scientific need for that much color and beauty, but God's an artist and that's what he does.


So I am determining to think differently. I think I've limited God in my mind and life, holding him (and others, and myself) to blacks and whites...maybe a few greys...when he's been trying to talk to me about red, or blue, or violet. I've been so busy looking for perfect white light...which, apparently, is unapproachable anyway....or focusing on the black holes around me that suck in every smattering of light and life....that I've missed out on some of the yellow and green vibrance.


Refracted for us to see, for our simple little brains to perceive, is God's light. On faces. In embraces. A mother duck waddling across the street with her ducklings. Making someone laugh. Traveling to a parallel universe for a little R & R. Hearing a magnificent piece of music. Reading a perfectly crafted sentence. 


Having one of those "oh!" moments of revelation.


I've been enjoying rainbows since I was a little girl, and learning about God for 54 years, and I'm just getting this now? It's not about the black and white....it's about the rainbow.




(c) 2012. Permission to use with acknowledgement of source.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Winds of Change

President Barak Obama ran on a campaign of change. Things have indeed change, during his administration. I won't go into details, but every thinking person will readily admit that some of the changes we have experienced as a nation, over the last few year,s have been good, others not so much. That's to be expected of any presidency. Ours is too complex a system for any one person to have, and use, enough power to do much good or harm by himself (or herself). 

Most of the time, that's a positive aspect of what the Founding Fathers set in motion 236 years ago.

Change. All kinds of changes in the wind as I sit here and peck at my laptop on a 4th of July. There are changes in health - people improving, people dying. Changes in jobs ahead, friends not knowing what or where they will be in two years, much less in 20. Changes in relationships.

So many changes in relationships, you'd think my friends, family, and acquaintances were trying out for a reality show, not trying to keep it together. I could count all the folks I know who are having relationship issues at this very moment but it would take too many fingers, and longer than I want to sit here.

If it sounds like I am writing as if I were on the outside looking in, smug in my own securities and righteousness, that isn't the case. I have my own share of troubled relationships - family members who won't speak to me, family members I'm pretty pissed off at myself; friends and family to whom I need to be closer; acquaintances who should be friends, friends who should stay acquaintances, kept at arms' length for various reasons. Some relationships are rock solid, but a precious few. 

Life can be so messy, can't it?

In the next few months, I predict (Ha! What's the advantage of predicting what everyone already knows?) that we will see increasingly negative dialogue from both the Romney and Obama camps. And there will be, within the same time frame, celebrities embroiled in various and sundry, public and tawdry, displays of relationships in flux. Marriages will fail, jobs will end, countries will reach the brink of disaster and manage to pull out one more time before falling into the abyss. On the positive side, rifts will heal, new relationships will begin, babies will be born, careers will be launched. Changes can be so very good, as well.

Andy Griffith
June 1, 1926 - July 3, 2012
Is there an American whose life
 was NOT touched by this man?
Change is part of life, as surely as digestion is part of the human body. Sometimes change is a good thing - like moving back to Florida was for me last year. Sometimes it is negative - a loved one exchanging a new addiction for an old one finally conquered, for example. Or a death that moves us, far out of proportion to our actual knowledge of the deceased. Or a death that moves us because we were so intimately acquainted. 

The problem is that with all the changes, we often....I often....lose sight of the fact that everything is always changing. Children are constantly growing older, as are parents. Minds are always maturing, or lapsing into more immaturity. Relationships are always growing closer together, or further apart. There is no time in our lives when life is stagnant. It may appear so at times. We may hope for that, at times. But it never happens.

We never "arrive." Not as a nation, not as a marriage, not as families or companies or friendships. There is never a time when we can just enjoy a deep sigh and relax that NOW we don't have to work so much. NOW we can let things slide. NOW we can enter into a rest.

Uh oh. Doesn't the Bible say something about that? Yes, I'm sure of it. There IS a rest that we are supposed to, as Christians, enter. A ceasing of labor. Of work. Of striving. And it is not just by doing nothing, but by actively letting go of the ropes and tethers and chains and ladders by which we thought we might attain goodness or right standing or an "in" with God.

The work is done. "It is finished," Jesus said on the cross. Nothing you can do, nothing I can do, will make us more saved, if we trust in that finished work of the cross. Nothing, conversely, we can do or say contrary to God's will, can mess it up. We can mess up our own lives, mess up relationships, but we are not powerful enough....like our President amidst a complex system of checks and balances....to screw it up forever.

I could tell you who I want to win in the November election. I could tell you who I think WILL win. I could tell you where I hope to be in five years' time, tell you who I think will stay married and who won't, tell you all kinds of things. But I won't. Change can be a tricky thing, shifting at the last possible moment. Life often looks just the opposite of "God is in control."  When it does, the temptation is to jump in and make things happen, which creates a whole different set of changes but rarely the end-all solutions for which we had hoped.

None of these human, earthly changes is so big that it will upset God's plans, however. And, in case you have forgotten, his plans are much bigger than who is president of the United States, or who is married to whom, or what job you get...or lose. The Big Plans will prevail. The little ones don't matter nearly as much as we'd like to believe.

And then again, it is one of those great paradoxes. The Creator of the universe who has vast plans...counts the hairs on our heads. Feeds the birds of the field. In one sense, we need not worry about even the tiniest details of our lives, because he is SO concerned about them....and in another, we need not worry, because we are such tiny specks in the vastness of eternity past, present, and future.

Too much on a 4th of July! I think I need another glass of wine. Enjoy the fireworks!