What do I know of Holy?

What do you think of when you hear someone use the word ‘righteous’? Does it bring with it any connotations?

For me, two things pop into my head: the word self, as in ‘self-righteous’ and the idea of being perfect or holy, which is unattainable. Righteousness for me was always something that either I didn’t want or thought I could never be. It was a sermon and discussion with a pastor of mine that changed my concept of what it meant to be righteous and began a year long fascination to discover what being righteous meant for me.

20120512-072039.jpgThe conversation I had centered around the Hebrew word ‘tzadik’. Tzadik is the Hebrew word for righteous. In the conversation my friend Bruce took the definition and related it back to a group in ancient Jewish culture. There were actually people who earned the title Tzadik or ‘The Righteous’. How does someone or a group earn such a title, not given by themselves, but by those they lived with day by day? They were known in their culture for several things: feeding the poor, mending the sick, taking care of the widow and the orphan. They were given the name Righteous because of the way they cared for those around them.

Wow, that’s a whole lot different than being self-righteous, in fact it seems to be about the opposite. Since my early twenties I had never really strived for righteousness because I either thought it was impossible to achieve (I’d failed all my life) or it was linked to an attitude I loathed (self-righteousness). But this idea, the idea of giving yourself away for the sake of others, this was something I could embrace. I was excited, but being steeped in my Southern Baptist roots, I had fears that this was just the same old idea that being a ‘good person’ was enough.

Yet as I looked at what Jesus said while he walked beside us, I began to see some confirming themes. In Luke 17:33 Jesus is talking about how we should live while waiting for his return. He says “Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will preserve it.” (NET) I know the traditional interpretation, but what if there is more. What if he is telling us that our souls are wired to get life by living unselfishly. That by holding on to everything that we think will make us secure and happy, we actually slowly kills our souls with selfishness. He makes similar statements in Matthew 10:39. Is he suggesting that by letting go of it all, and living lives serving those around us, that our souls actually come alive. That by giving ourselves away we actually find what makes us whole? The Sermon on the Mount actually hints of this and I know that’s how it works with me.

So when Jesus talks about the Judgement in Matthew 25:31 he seperates the sheep from the goats in one of his wonderful sheparding metaphors.  He speaks of the Righteous being brought into his fold because of the things that made them righteous.  In this section he refers specifically to: Feeding the poor, giving a drink to the thirsty, welcoming the stranger and comforting those in hard times.

The characteristics of the righteous seem to flow from a heart that is generous, open and loving towards the world around them.  The wicked seem to have their hears entirely focused on themselves and have lost all compassion for anyone but themselves.

Jesus directly equates the behavior of the righteous ‘sheep’ with welcoming them into eternal life.  I personally believe that this not only involves life for eternity, but that the ‘life’ of Jesus is already welling up in them today.  They are already experiencing life and life more abundantly.  They are in effect helping being in the kinddom of God which Jesus refers to repeatedly.  If we all behaved this way, wouldn’t it be heaven on earth?

 

Pork Pinwheels with Herbed Gorgonzola souffle’.

Pork Pinwheels with Herbed Gorgonzola Souffle’

20120513-143938.jpg Ingredients

  • 4 large center cut pork chops about 1 inch thick
  • 2 8 oz packages cream cheese
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 3/4 cup gorganzola cheese
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 2 full green onions
  • Cavenders Greek seasoning (or favorite pork seasoning)
  • 4 Campari tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper

Using a sharp knife, remove any fat from sides of porkchops. Carefully spiral slice the porkchops into a long strip about 1/8 inch thick. (each porkchop will be making two pinwheels) You should end up with a strip of pork about 36inches long. Cut strips in half until you have stripsapproximately 18 inches long.

Season pork strips with Cavenders or your favorite pork seasoning andsets aside.

20120513-150845.jpgCut the cream cheese into chunks anto place in a food processor. Add the 2 eggs and garlic. If the Gorgonzola is in a block break it up and add it to the mix. Roughly chop and add the green onions. Blend until almost smooth.

Take the Campari tomatoes and cut them in half using the flower or other decorative technique.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Tear tin foil into approximately 5 inch squares.  Take 1 square and place it on your working surface.  Spray the tin foil with cooking spray.

Take one of the seasoned pork strips and layer about 4 inches of one end with the Gorgonzola mixture.  Stand that section on one end and make a circle about the size of your Campari tomatoe flowers.  Fill the center hole of the pinwheel with the Gorgonzola mixture and begin winding the pinwheel layering about 1/4 to 1/8 inchmixture between each layer.

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Once you have wound your pinwheel to the end use a toothpick spear to hold the pinwheel together during baking. Place a tomatoe flower and press it into the center so it partially covered by the porkchop. Sprinkle the tomatoe with salt and pepper.

As you complete each pinwheel place it and the tin foil square on a baking sheet.  Once you have all 8 pinwheels completed, place the baking sheet in the oven and cook for 25-30 minutes.  

While the pinwheels are cooking, carmelize the onion slices until they are a medium brown.  Set aside.

When the pinwheels look like they are just about cooked, turn the oven on broil and brown until the tips of the tomatoe flower and the souffle are browned.

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Pull the pinwheels from the oven, remove the foil and plate them. Top with strings of the carmelized onions.

Amendment One – The Emotional Aftermath

Amendment One - The Emotional Aftermath

I returned from my most recent camping trip to my home in Charlotte, NC and the political, religious, social and personal battle brought on by Amendment One. Following my standard MO, I had high hopes that society and religion would choose not to inflict yet another wound where healing should be the focus.

You see this is not the first wound I have taken from the hand of the enemy.  The hand of the enemy being anyone or thing that is used to try and separate me from the love of my God.  Notice I said the ‘hand’ of the enemy, The individuals who placed this measure on the ballot, the thousands who voted for it and the hundreds of Christians who’ve wounded me and others in the past are not the enemy.  Their actions are just being used to work against God’s mission to bring all people back to him… just as I have been used to do the same thing.

My reaction the night of the vote was mild resignation.  My gut had warned me it was a strong possibility, but I had held out hope for a chance at redemption for both sides.  I went to bed feeling disappointment and shame.  Disappointed that my Christian brothers and sisters had not been able to see the Heart of God in this matter and shame that as a gay man who identifies openly as a Christian, I would have to face my friends and colleges with this scarlet ‘C’ branded on my chest.

I woke up in the morning angry.  Really angry: angry like I have not been since my teenage years.  Angry enough to want to break things.  Angry enough to want to hurt people.  Angry enough to want to cause pain. Angry enough to want to run away. Angry enough to want to fight back.  I looked at moving to states where ignorance was not enshrined into the constitution.  I began researching retailers that supported Amendment One to make sure I didn’t shop there.  I wrote letters my my normal retailers letting them know I would search for my needs on the internet to avoid spending money in the state. I looked into which charities supported the amendment to make sure none of my contributions went to their coffers.

Stumbling through my normal morning routine, I checked the latest updates on FaceBook.  It was there I found sympathy with many friends who were doing mass ‘un-friendings’ of their Christian friends and asking anyone who voted for Amendment One to please unfriend them.  I instantly sided with their desire to cut off contact with those who represented the hurt they had been dealt.  It is a way of lashing out; hurt me and I will deny your my friendship.

As I showered and dressed for work, I began making a mental list of the people I might defriend in my righteous anger.  Whenever I began to write a name on that list in my brain, there was something that reminded me of why they were my friend in the first place.  Name after name I placed on the firing line… each time something about them stopped me from pulling the trigger.  Each time, I realized that I really wasn’t angry at them specifically.  They were flawed, but so the hell am I.  I realized that they are not faceless, nameless bigots; they are complex, thinking, people.  They are not caricatures but humans with souls, just like me.

My initial instinct was to lash out and then disengage from those who had hurt me, those who said that I was less than they were.  But I will not do it.  Why?  Because Jesus never did.  He continued to engage, He continued to confront, He continued to love, He continued to heal, He continued to reach out and He continued to forgive.  I am no where near most of those places as I write this blog.
But I will not retreat and I will not lash out.

Instead, I choose to engage.  I will engage because that’s how change happens.  It’s how I came to be a follower of Jesus in the first place.  It’s how Jesus changed the Disciples and the world.  I hope I will engage with the fierce love that Jesus did… realizing we are all screwed up on some level and who am I to judge.

As I begin this journey through anger and bitterness, I have this blog.  I will convert my anger and passion into digital 1’s and 0’s in cyberspace.  I have been on a long journey to discover that the God of the universe has pursued me with passion.  This is about where I have been and where God is taking me… ever an exciting journey on a very rambling road.