Dear “Evangelical” Spokespeople:

This has been perplexing and, to be frank, grieving me for months.

Some years back, you convinced me that “character counts” in a presidential candidate, that our government leaders should demonstrate “family values”, and that a man who could not be trusted to remain faithful to his wife could not be trusted to lead our country. You convinced me that womanizers and immoral men were unfit for the highest office in our land. You convinced me that our president was a role model for our children, and that we should not elect anyone whose conduct and speech we did not want our children to emulate.

You were so convincing that I not only  believed you then, but still do.

Now you you tell me that we are not electing a pastor-in-chief, and that I should ignore everything you insisted upon previously. You accuse me of being a Pharisee for not wanting to vote for Trump, and of being ungodly for still clinging to the old standards.

What made you change your mind? Or were you not truly convinced of those things in the first place? Were you wrong then — or now? And, if you were wrong then, it would help me a lot to hear your sincere apology for misleading me, and your explanation for why you have abandoned what I thought were genuine principles and convictions. You have failed to convince me that I should follow your lead in voting for your favored candidate. Simply calling me a self-righteous, unforgiving legalist isn’t cutting it.

Frankly, I’m confused. What is the new “evangelical” standard supposed to be for supporting a presidential candidate? Hold your nose, go against everything you’ve said and believed, and vote for the Republican no matter what? Never vote for a Clinton? Abandon all previously held principles just because a proven liar makes semi-promises about who he may possibly nominate to the Supreme Court?

And what does any of this have to do with evangelicalism?

God have mercy.

Ugh…politics…

Rarely if ever do I blog about politics but, then again, few things rile me up as much as blasphemy or false messiahs. Since I just posted this on Facebook, I figured I might as well post it here too:

I don’t like to post political stuff, but I feel compelled to speak up. No election in my lifetime has frightened me as much as this one, but today topped it all for me.

Christians I know and like are posting links to a blasphemous, scary article and — rather than denouncing it or getting offended — are actually voicing agreement with it. In the article, the author quotes one of my all-time favorite Scripture passages, which is from Isaiah 40. He quotes verses 30-31 in this manner:

“Even the youths shall faint and be weary, And the young men shall utterly fall, But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.” 

Then the author proceeds to claim, “It’s almost like God created this verse for Donald Trump and this moment in history.”

That awful statement alone should horrify any student of Scripture or anyone who claims to believe in the God of the Bible. But it gets worse. 

I have no idea who Wayne Allyn Root, the author of this travesty, is. At the beginning of his article, he identifies himself by writing: “I am a Jew turned evangelical Christian. I am also a passionate supporter of Donald Trump.” I would argue, based on this article, that he is no longer an evangelical Christian but now believes in Trump as his messiah. Mr. Root seems to believe that it is now Trump, and no longer God, who renews our strength, and who enables us to mount up with wings like eagles. 

I wish I was kidding or that Mr. Root had written a tasteless satire, but unfortunately that doesn’t appear to be the case. In his “message for Christians”, he tries to convince us that “Trump is our energy”; “Trump renews our strength”; “With Trump we mount up with wings like eagles”; and, “With Trump we run, we are not weary”.

Sorry, those of my friends who are Trump fans, but that sounds like blasphemy to me. Trump is not God. Isaiah 40:31,32 is not a prophecy that Trump is fulfilling. “The Donald” may think he is America’s savior, and he may have convinced you of that, but he is not our messiah, not our God, not our Savior.

I’m beginning to think that this election is causing people to take absolute leave of their senses. What sort of bizarre hold does Trump have over this misguided and deluded author that he would write something so terrible while claiming to be a Christian — and why are my Christian friends not outraged at what he has written?

You can read the blasphemy in context here: http://m.townhall.com/columnists/wayneallynroot/2016/06/24/a-message-for-christians-about-donald-trump-n2182796

Treasure in the Field, part 3 | Fiction Friday

[Begin with part 1 here.]

Three days later, he heard the king’s voice again, this time early in the morning as he was folding up his simple sleeping pad in the hut where they now stayed. His wife was outside, getting fresh water from the nearby spring and, when she returned, she found him face down on the floor.

“You heard the king’s voice,” she said quietly. He was struck by her calmness as she explained, “I have been hearing him more and more lately. Soon it will be time for me to ride to him.”

“What about me?”

“I don’t know. What did the king say?”

“He just called my name.”

She nodded. “Wait. Wait for his voice.”

So they waited. Their days were filled with mediation, study, vigorous exercise, and hikes through the surrounding countryside. Sometimes his wife would check to make sure her garments and travel supplies were ready. Their evenings were filled with long talks by the fireside, their nights with tenderness.

In the meantime, his mind filled with questions he dared not ask.

Spring came. One morning a beautiful white stallion appeared in the clearing outside their door. His wife greeted it like a long lost friend, throwing her arms around the horse’s neck in an embrace, kissing it between the ears, and then flinging herself on its back before galloping off.

It was the first time he had seen her ride. He didn’t even know if she had ever been on a horse before in her life, but now she looked as if she was finally doing what she had been born to do.

His heart ached.

She returned an hour later, her face radiant and her hair gloriously windswept. When had her grey strands turned to silver? he wondered. Surely not during her ride…

“I leave tomorrow at sunup,” she announced.

He couldn’t answer.

“I have never loved you as much as now, but I love the king more. Besides, he’s the one I serve. I’ve waited my entire life for this. He’s calling me — can you imagine? me! — and I get to go.”

Again, he couldn’t answer.

Later, they both wept. They spent the night in each other’s arms.

After a hurried pre-dawn breakfast the next morning, she put on her travel garments. He had never seen such clothing, and he was filled with wonder. She wore a flowing white dress, far more beautiful than the one she wore at their wedding and, over this extraordinary dress, she wore armor. When he asked her about her armor, shield, and sword, she answered somberly, “I thought you understood. It’s not just a journey. The king will be leading us into battle.”

Finally he couldn’t take it any more. “Do you think the king will ever call for me?” he asked desperately, feeling as if his heart was about to break irrevocably. “I’ve followed your example. I’ve given up everything. I sold our home and my business, and I gave away everything I couldn’t sell. I’ve meditated; I’ve exercised; I’ve walked countless miles through what seemed like endless forests and deserts. I’ve read and studied and learned everything I could. I’ve waited. I’ve listened. I don’t know what else to do!” Putting his hand on her shoulder, he cried, “I’ve given up everything, lost everything — and now I’m losing you too!” He forced himself to choke back the sobs. “I have nothing left.”

“Nothing but the king,” she reminded him gently. “And he’s all that matters anyway. Everything else was futile and worthless compared to him. It’s as if we spent it all to buy the greatest treasure there is. Wasn’t it worth giving it all up just to hear his voice?”

“Yes,” he paused, only to go on, “but now that I’ve heard it, how can I possibly be content staying here? I want to go to him! I want to ride with him!”

They clung to each other and wept yet again. He urged her, “Please give a message to the king. Tell him…tell him that I would consider it the highest honor if he would call me to be his servant.” She wiped his tears, kissed him one last time, and mounted her horse, shouting, “Wait for the king! Listen for his voice!” He watched her ride off, and he knew that he would never behold a more beautiful sight than this fierce warrior bride on her white steed, her banner wafting high above her head in the breeze.

She was gone. He whispered, “Nothing but the king”, fell to his knees, put his face down in the dirt, and wept as he had never wept before. He wondered if he would keep weeping until he died.

And then he heard hoofbeats.

It couldn’t be. Please don’t choose me over the king, he wanted to scream at the same time that he hoped beyond hope that he would see his wife when he lifted his tear-stained face from the dirt.

Unbelievably, she had returned, this time leading another horse. “It seems the king thinks you’re ready,” she said. “He left you this horse with everything you need for the journey.”

The entire time he rushed about washing his face, dressing in his travel garments, putting on his armor, and preparing to leave, words and tears tumbled out of both of them. It was as if two dams had burst suddenly, and everything gushed out everywhere in wild torrents. They sang with exuberant joy, laughed with delight, cried with thanksgiving, and even shouted with excitement.

“Can you believe we get to ride together?”

He was ready. They hugged and kissed, and mounted their horses. Then they heard it together — the voice of their king, calling them both by name, calling them to ride, calling them to the journey, calling them to their great adventure, calling them to battle, calling them to die, calling them to him. They lifted their banners high and shouted, “To the king! Let’s ride!”

And they rode.


 

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” Matthew 13:44

Treasure in the Field, part 2 | Fiction Friday

[Read part one here.]

That day — when his wife spoke from her heart about the king — was a turning point, not so much for their marriage, but for him. His wife’s words about the king had intrigued him, especially when she insisted, “There is no other king like him, so good and glorious!” He decided, secretly, to find out as much as possible about this legendary person who had so captured his wife’s mind and heart. He wanted to know what was really going on with her, but he didn’t want her to know of his new interest.

Months went by. He read his own books and consulted his own sources, but he also snuck into her room and immersed himself in everything he discovered there.

Despite his initial, vehement resistance, he found himself being affected by what he was learning. For him to embrace change meant to accept that there was room for improvement in his life, and he found such an admission to be painful and demeaning. He was a good, capable man, respected in their land, without the many flaws and weaknesses that plagued his wife. Hers was a life of constant failure, and one obviously in need of a drastic overhaul. But he had always achieved everything he had wanted, and had never strayed from the course he had set out on in his youth. Their unsatisfying marriage was not his fault — if he had been permitted to choose his own wife, he would have married one far better, and his relationship would have been as fulfilling, pleasing, and successful as every other area of his life.

He was not the one who needed changing, he reminded himself. But somehow, he found himself changing anyway. It just happened, subtly at first, a hidden shifting of his interests and desires. Not long after that, he began wanting to change, wanting to become someone worthy of eventually meeting the king who was becoming more and more important to him.

There came a day when he asked his wife, once again, what it was that she really wanted. This time there was fear in his voice. He had discovered, in her room, clothes that he had never seen before, odd clothes carefully packed in a bundle and hidden away, as if waiting, clothes whose purpose he could not understand. He feared she was leaving him. But he also feared she might be staying…or that she might be going somewhere unexpected, or somewhere he no longer wanted to go…in fact, he wasn’t sure what exactly he feared or what it was that he feared most.

He was afraid to mention her clothes. He simply asked her, in a voice that betrayed his anxiety, to tell him what it was that she really wanted, and not to spare his feelings.

Her words shocked him at the same time that they made perfect sense. “I must ride to meet the king,” she said. 

“Ride? How?”

“The king will make a way. He has already sent me almost everything I need for the journey, including new clothes. I’m just awaiting his summons, his final provision, and I’m preparing myself.”

“I want to ride with you!” he burst out, but then quickly corrected himself. “I mean — don’t take this the wrong way — I want to ride to the king, whether we ride together or not.” In a rush of words, he confessed what had been going on with him.

She looked at him carefully. “He’s a beautiful king and well worth serving. But it will be a difficult journey. It will cost you everything. We can’t take anything with us except what the king gives us for the journey — everything else has to be left behind.” Her eyes stared into him, as if attempting to scrutinize his deepest, most secret thoughts. He feared what she might see, but he feared avoiding her gaze even more. Finally she spoke, “I don’t want you going with me if there is even the slightest possibility that you might want to turn back.”

He nodded.

“You need to be sure. Really sure. You have to determine that you will give up everything in your life — sell everything you can and give away what you can’t sell — just to meet the king. Being in his service has to be that important to you. He has to be that important to you.”

He nodded again. “He is,” he assured her.

As she shook her head sadly, he found himself looking at her as if for the first time. She had aged over the course of their marriage. Her face was more lined and wrinkled than he had noticed before, her hands more work-worn, and her hair more grey — yet she exuded a vibrancy and strength that he had never seen in her. One might even go so far as to call her beautiful, he thought with wonder. She looked thoughtful as she spoke, “I’m not sure you’re called to the journey. I’ll have to ask the king what to do — if he wants me to change my plans, and take on a traveling companion.”

“You…you talk to the king?

She chuckled at his astonishment. “All the time. Sometimes he even answers back.” Then she grew somber. “You need to know something else before you decide.” She swallowed and looked away briefly. He could see fear and sorrow on her face but, when she looked back at him, fierce joy shone from her tear-filled eyes. “What you need to know is this: we will die on the journey. But seeing the king — and actually getting to ride with him — will be worth it.”

“I guess I’d kind of figured that out,” he said, unconvincingly. She left him to his thoughts.

A week later, he sent her a message: “Don’t leave without me.” He knew that he wanted to know and follow this beautiful king who had so captivated his wife that she was being transformed before his very eyes. He too wanted to be transformed.

She sent one in reply: “I will wait until the king bids me to come.”

He found her in her room. “I don’t know how to prepare myself for the journey.”

“I already told you. Sell everything you can, and give the rest away. Show the king that you are desperate to meet him, desperate to become his servant, desperate to follow him, and he’ll make sure you have everything you need, and only what you need.” She looked at him fondly, but sadly. “I don’t think you are hungry enough. I think you are way too comfortable.”

Two months later, he climbed the steep trail up to the small hut where she had locked herself away in meditation, and where she often engaged in vigorous exercise. He had lost weight, carried nothing, and was dressed like a pauper. He sat with her in silent meditation, and exercised when she did, neither of them speaking, although she had smiled joyfully when she saw him arrive. He came back the next day, and the next, and the next…until he lost track of the days and grew convinced that his life had never been better.

Early one morning, he thought he heard the voice of the king, calling his name. He threw himself on the floor, face down in fear, awe, and excitement. This has to be the best day of my life, he thought. I heard the king call me by name.

“What is it about us,” he asked his wife later, “that makes us admire the king so? Why did his voice have such a powerful impact on me?”

“It’s not us,” she said. “It’s him. It’s who he is…what he is…” She looked him deep in the eyes and then threw her arms around him. “I’m so glad you love the king and that you’ve heard his voice!”

More days passed. He had never loved his wife more, never admired her more, never respected her more, never enjoyed her friendship more. He also felt more loved by her than ever before — and he finally appreciated what a great gift she was to him.

She was filled with joy, peace, and contentment — yet he sensed she was growing increasingly restless. He finally asked her about it.

“I’m meant for the journey,” she said. “It’s what I have been preparing for, and I am impatient to leave.”

He had almost forgotten.

[Stay tuned next Fiction Friday for part three.]

Treasure in the Field, part 1 | Fiction Friday

There is a potential pitfall in posting little stories like this one, and that is that readers might assume them to be something they are not. Hence, my upfront disclaimer: this story is neither an autobiographical sketch nor a theological treatise. Writers often write what they know, so parts of my story may speak of my own life, but readers should not presume to guess which parts do or do not. (Example: I’m a married woman but I don’t live in a culture where arranged marriages are the norm…etc.) While the story may seem to be allegorical, each element should not be viewed as symbolic nor representative of some doctrine. Trust me, I’m not that deep. What I wrote here is pretty much just a little story, not a theological statement in disguise.

Enough preamble and disclaimer…

“What do you want?” he asked. “What is it you really want?” Years of living with this woman had tried his patience and exasperated him, and his tone reflected his frustration.

It had been an arranged marriage — as was their custom — and he thought he had finally made peace with the fact that she was not at all the sort of wife that he would have chosen. His sense of disappointment was no longer acute nor painful, and he had eventually managed to forgive the matchmaker for tricking him into marrying a woman who was so ill-suited to his needs. In fact, as the years passed, he had not only become rather accustomed to his wife but, despite everything, had even grown to love her.

But still — this wife of his! She was so impractical, such a dreamer! From the very beginning, she had refused to accept their marriage arrangement for what it was. Sometimes he wondered if she actually believed they lived in another land, a fairy tale land in which people married for friendship and romance. It was as if she held him to an unrealistic standard, as if she expected him to act like some love-sick, desperate suitor whose only desire in life was to woo her and win her heart — or as if she wanted him to act like a bosom buddy who couldn’t get enough of her presence. He refused to stoop to any such silliness. He let her know that her romantic longings were so far beneath him as to be not even worth his consideration. After all, he was her husband and he was certainly not going to pretend otherwise, nor would he degrade himself just to humor her childish, irrational fantasies.

But lately something had changed about his wife, and it puzzled him. As much as he had resented her juvenile, clingy and incessant demands for his attention, he found it vaguely unsettling not to be so desperately needed by her. It was ironic. She had finally stopped pestering and pressuring him, stopped demanding that he treat her like royalty, stopped behaving as a spoiled child, stopped insisting that he change — she was finally acting content with their relationship — and, instead of feeling relieved and thankful, he felt insecure and unloved. Although she was not overtly rebuffing him, he couldn’t help feeling rejected.

To add to his confusion, he had to admit that she was being neither cold nor indifferent towards him. In fact, she was kinder and gentler than she had ever been. Whenever she behaved in ways that irritated him, she apologized genuinely, and somehow managed to do those things that offended him less and less. She was much more pleasant to be around. He should have been happy with these improvements in her nature, but he felt uneasy instead.

Rather than clamoring for his attention as she had for most of their marriage, she had immersed herself lately in a study of the history of their land. That was one of his fields of expertise, but — stubborn as always — she preferred to study in her own way rather than consulting him. She filled her room with pictures and artifacts; she sought after those who sang the songs and legends of their people; she seemed especially drawn to anything regarding their long ago king. She even began corresponding with far flung scholars who claimed to be companions of this king no one else they knew had met in person — this absent king who supposedly ruled their land from a throne no one had seen, this mysterious king who had promised to return someday.

In fact, she had grown rather obsessed with finding out all she could about the king. Everyone in their land acknowledged him as “the real king”, even while admitting he had become, during the many years of his absence, little more than a figurehead. Other men ruled in his place and attempted to enforce their understanding of his laws and decrees. But his wife seemed to be taking things to an almost bizarre extreme, weirdly emphasizing that she was the king’s subject, swearing her allegiance to him in odd little ceremonies of her own devising, and even going so far as to re-enact part of an ancient ritual declaring herself a lifelong slave to the king.

At first he had told himself that her troubling but amusing behavior was the latest example of her many, intense, passing interests — a fad that would quickly fade away. Then he wondered if she had gotten caught up in some bizarre infatuation. Finally he had to admit that this was different than any of her previous hobbies: it was actually changing her. She was uncharacteristically content and peaceful…yet obviously filled with longing as well. So he asked her what she wanted.

What he really hoped to hear was what she wanted from him. He wanted to be the focus of her desires, even if those desires annoyed and frustrated him, even if he had no interest in ever seeing them fulfilled. He was so desperate for a reassuring answer that he humbled himself enough to tell her, “I need you to want me.” And then he asked her to tell him, finally, her deepest longings.

“I don’t think you want to know,” she said, “because my hopes and dreams are not about you. They’re about the king.”

And then she told him.

[Stay tuned next Fiction Friday for part two.]