Click pic to go to Facebook event page….
Recently, I have been turning toward the Beatitudes. I have looked at them from every direction and wondered why more “Christians” haven’t taken to them as a way of life. The one that really struck me today was Matthew 5:9, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.”
All my life, I have been a peacemaker. (Well, okay, there was one period of about 5 years where I tried to stir up as much drama with my family as I could. . .but let’s not dwell on the past) I don’t like it when people fight and I just want to see people get along.
I seem to have been born with a highly developed sense of compassion and empathy. I used to (and still do) befriend what my mom lovingly termed, “The Unlovables.” These were the kids that got picked on in school because they were different. The kids that had no friends. I was constantly asking questions as to why people were being treated so badly and my heart regularly broke for them. I also have to admit (much to my chagrin) that I got a little teary at the end of Dangerous Liaisons when I watched it in high school. My heart broke for Glenn Close’s character. Yes, she brought most of it on herself, but did she really deserve to be treated so harshly by the very society that created her? Where was the compassion? I know, I know. . .it’s silly.
There have been many inspirations for me over the years: Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Jimmy Carter, the Dalai Lama and Martin Luther King, Jr. And more recently, there have been some inspirations from closer to home: Liz Welch of the ACLU Montana, Gregory Smith of the Pride Foundation, Caitlin Copple, Jamie Greer, Edie Windsor just to name a few. These are the “Children of God.”
I have seen some very negative posts lately. I have even created one. And if you saw my last post, you will also know that I have issued an apology in the interest of being a peacemaker. I do not presume to know the mind of God. I would be leery of anyone who says they do. However, I listen to the “Still, small Voice” inside and I know what God says to me. And it may not be the same thing that God says to you. Does it mean you are wrong? No. Does it mean I am wrong? No. Just different.
Christians are not bad people. They are people, just like the rest of us. They make mistakes. They fall from the path. We have to remember to hold ourselves to the very standards that we are comparing them against, like “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” I would also refer to Luke 6:42 “Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou beholdest not the beam in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother’s eye.”
A moment of clarity came to me this morning in a Biblical argument with a misinformed person. The Bible is a tool to show YOU how to live. It is NOT a tool for YOU to show ME how to live. It is for me to use the tool myself. But, I digress.
Psalm 34:14 says, “Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.” Pursuing peace and negotiating it is a tricky business. But even the ACT of pursing peace is the act of departing from evil and doing good. We need to be mindful of that.
The Old Testament was tribal law, meant to hold the Israelites together during the time when they had no home. The Old Testament is included in the Bible to show Christians where they came from and what their history was. Jesus brought the New Testament to show a better way to live. It is a new covenant, replacing the old. Jesus was/is the Son of God. A child of God. A peacemaker.
I will continue to be a peacemaker. I will continue to support people that are peacemakers. I will continue to fight for people’s rights and to fight injustice where I see it. That is part of what being a peacemaker is.
Perhaps I am not on the forefront, helping to change and write policies and laws, but that doesn’t mean I am ineffective. I am on the sidelines, changing people’s minds and hearts. I write because I can, because it is a talent given to me by God and I have been charged with using that talent. And I will continue to wield it as a peacemaker. I am a child of God.
|Originally posted (under a different headline) by newwaysministryblog|
An event last Friday that included Sr. Jeannine Gramick, the co-founder of New Ways Ministry, highlighted just how supportive Catholics are of marriage equality as the bishops play defense to support their position.
For over two hours at an event hosted by Robert Blair Kaiser and the Jesuit Alumni of Arizona, Sr. Gramick exchanged views with Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois, in front of an audience.
The National Catholic Reporter reported on the event, where Bishop Paprocki attacked the “gay activist lobby” in his opening remarks and denigrated the attention given to the murder of Matthew Shepard in 1998 as evidence of media bias. He posited that if marriage equality passes, then “everything should be OK” in regard to any sexual practice or activity.
Alternatively, Sr. Gramick spoke of the positive changes occurring around LGBT issues, including her personal conversion that has led to nearly four decades of ministry with gay and lesbian people. The article continues:
“Gramick reflected on changes in her own attitudes, attitudes of the public and attitudes of the church hierarchy. She said more and more church leaders are moving toward support of at least civil unions.
“Referring to Paprocki’s remark that morality cannot be based on polls, she said, ‘We may not legislate on the basis of polls, but they tell us what people are thinking.’
“She said polls show Catholics’ opinions have moved from opposition to same-sex marriage to approval in a short time because nearly everyone has a gay friend, family member or business associate.”
Indicative of these shifting views, the question period was solely aimed at Bishop Paprocki’s opposition to LGBT rights. During remarks by the bishop, a member of the audience, Anne Gray, even yelled out, “That’s insulting” and followed-up with a question:
”In response to a question from Kaiser, Paprocki said the church would love to welcome gay people but is forced into a defensive position by ‘activists pushing an agenda.’ That set off Gray, who has a gay son, again.
“‘Here I am,’ she said. ‘The big scary gay agenda…My son is a perfect human being. There is nothing intrinsically disordered about him. I know because I am his mother.’…
” ‘You need to listen to mothers,’ she said.”
Another questioner offered her personal experience of supporting lesbian family members and Paprocki made the suggestion that she leave the church to do so:
“One of the youngest people in the room said she was a devout Catholic, but when her aunt and sister told her they were gay, she was put on the spot. She asked Paprocki if she could remain a good Catholic and still support her family members in their desires to form lifelong relationships.
” ‘It is a struggle to be a good Catholic while supporting gay marriage,’ the bishop said. ‘It strains your relationship with the church.’
“He said those who oppose the church on the issue should become Protestants. ‘They do a lot of good things too,’ he said.
This is the latest instance where Catholics supportive of LGBT equality are making their voices heard to the Church’s hierarchy, including Sr. Gramick who recently confronted the famously anti-gay Cardinal Turkson of Ghana. We applaud the many people whose efforts contributed to making American Catholics the leading religious group advocating for equal marriage rights!
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry
Quite a different approach to the Pope’s “Welcome All” message last week….
It was my pleasure to sit behind retired Methodist Pastor, Lyle Hamilton in the basement of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Helena, Montana for an All Church Conference to discuss a proposed Reconciling Congregation statement. The Conference Superintendent led the meeting and asked the fifty or so assembled to speak what was on their heart. And a few did.
The meeting, however, was anti-climatic. Their was a strong sense that the statement of inclusion and affirmation of groups of people who have formerly felt shunned and excluded was merely a reflection of the already imbedded character of St. Paul’s anyway. In fact, a few people described how they had heard comments over the previous year of meetings, discussion and classes leading up to this moment to the effect of “duh-uh! Don’t we have that already?”
Yet, there was also a sense of importance, of critical mass, of mission, purpose and rightness of call. My friends, John and Vicky Wieda, had painstakingly spearheaded the effort in that vain with deliberateness. So yes, when it came time to reach consensus as a congregation there was little to detract from an outcome which seemed certain. St. Paul’s would become a Reconciling Congregation.
So, why do it? I mean, why all the fuss if St Paul’s, with its open minds, hearts and doors, has already established inclusiveness as part of its character? Isn’t it really much ado about nothing?
Pastor Lyle gives a clue about the answer in this post on his Facebook page:
Late yesterday afternoon, at an all church conference, St. Paul’s UMC in Helena officially became a Reconciling Ministries Congregation by a consensus vote. We have now publically declared ourselves to, in fact, be what the community of Helena and most of our congregation has long felt is both our calling and our reality: “All truly means all,” and everyone has a place in this community of faith.
Our incarnated statement, that is imbedded in our soul, is as follows: “St. Paul’s United Methodist Church welcomes all people of any age, gender, color, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, economic status, or disability into the full life and membership of this congregation.”
May God bless us, every one . . . as we move forward with grace and compassion toward all!
The oft repeated statement over the months of examining this issue that “All truly means all,”which, as Lyle says, is “imbedded in our soul,” is not just a statement. It is in many ways transcendent, like a lighthouse beacon shining through the storms and rough seas of understanding and reconciliation between who we are and what we believe, between what we believe and the world around us, between the world around us and the one within where Jesus calls with open arms and his profound and unconditional offer of love.
To proclaim that “All are welcome here,” and mean it, is to shine the light of Jesus’s love through all the violence and hateful rhetoric in the world around us for those, like me, who else would have no place to go for the communal understanding, practice and experience of that love. I would have no congregation, no church. For some, perhaps, it is possible to live as a Christian without church. For me, from the day I walked into St. Paul’s almost seven years ago in my first week of gender transition on “Welcome Home Sunday” to this moment, it is not.
Christianity is a communal practice. God speaks to me in many ways, some far, far away from books and buildings. But God also speaks to me through other people – through you. And I can find few better places to hear God speak and feel God’s presence than in the company of other Christian believers – through congregation and communal worship. Thus, as a Christian transwoman, it is vital for me to have a Christian community to call home.
Last night I was reminded, as I spoke what was on my heart, of the day I became a member of St. Paul’s. It was my birthday and the whole congregation sang Happy Birthday. I stood there, dumbfounded, with a tear in my eye and my flesh all goosey. I knew then, as publicly affirmed by this Reconciling Statement that I have my congregation and my church. Thank you St. Paul’s for welcoming me home.
“Personally, I don’t believe that you can live an openly homosexual lifestyle, or like, premarital sex between heterosexuals … it says that that’s a sin … I believe that’s walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ,” he said on the show. “So, I would not characterize that person as a Christian, because I don’t think the Bible would characterize that person as a Christian.”
~ Chris Broussard, ESPN Commentator.
I do so wish to avoid judging those who judge others. Thus, I have tried to avoid comment upon the religious right rhetoric about LGBT people. Yet, it is becoming increasingly clear that statements like the above quote stray from even the most basic of Christian tenets, Jesus’s command that we “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34-35. Moreover, for a biblical literalist, the above scriptural interpretation (Not cited, but denominated as biblical by the phrase, “it says.” ) is simply inaccurate. Finally, one of the most basic rules of journalism is that the media represent all sides of an issue. And, there is another side to this story.
So, what is gained by my silence? Some great Christian leaders have posited that to be silent in the face of oppression is to join the oppressor. (E.g., Dr. King, and more recently, Bishop Gene Robinson). Thus, I gladly risk the criticism that I am being judgmental in favor of speaking out on behalf of the oppressed. I speak my truth to power.
Now, about Gay Christians. The term is neither an oxymoron nor disingenuous. I personally identify as LGBT and Christian. I believe that Jesus is Lord! According to scripture, I cannot make such a statement lightly, but only by the power of the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:3). Moreover, if I say it and believe it than scripture guarantees my salvation. (Romans 10:9). Hence, the scriptural formulaic equation for salvation is not exclusive. I can be Gay and Christian. And I am not alone in this belief.
There are a whole host or Christian organizations, many of which we see on Face Book every day, dedicated to the same proposition. We are in the minority now, but I believe that as we continue to change the world that all of Christendom will likewise evolve. One such group is called Fortunate Families, a national organization of Catholic parents with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender children, with a passion for social justice advocacy and a focus on the Catholic Church and LGBT issues. In my present church affiliation, Methodist, we have the Reconciling Ministries Network whose purpose is to mobilize United Methodists of all sexual orientations and gender identities to transform our Church and world into the full expression of Christ’s inclusive love. The Episcopal church has an organization called Integrity, whose mission it is to inspire and equip the Episcopal Church, its dioceses, congregations, and members to proclaim and embody God’s all-inclusive love for LGBTQ persons and those who love them. Perhaps you know of others.
When it comes to scripture, I am merely a “jack-theologian,” so-to-speak. While I have a minor in religious studies, I certainly do not have any sort of divinity degree. However, I have at least read the passages to which I refer. I understand that they have been through multiple translations over the millennia, and were written in a vastly different culture with a vastly inferior world view, knowledge and technology, and that they were gathered into what we now know as the Bible by church fathers in the Third Century. (Even a cursory search reveals that the origins of the Bible is a complicated story rife with dissension and debate). Scripture did not even have line and verse until the 16th century. (The Bible was divided into chapters in the 13th century by Stephen Langton and into verses in the 16th century by French printer Robert Estienne). People believed over the entire 4,000 or so years that the various books of the Bible were written that the world was flat and the heavens (and God) resided a few hundred feet above them. Science now informs our world view to cast aside such notions, as well as the notion that the Biblical genealogy found in Genesis denotes the age of the world.
Against that backdrop, we have the self-righteous and inflammatory conclusions above. They can be summarized as follows: The bible says that homosexuality is a sin in open rebellion to God and Jesus. In claiming to be LGBT and Christian I must, as Gene Robinson says, “unabashedly” assert that this statement is false! None of the Gospels attribute to Jesus as ever uttering a single word about homosexuality, much less the word itself, or that he would accord it to himself as “open rebellion.” No such word existed in Hebrew or Greek, the two main languages in which the books of the bible were written. The word “homosexual” is not in the Bible, except in oblique translations of the six or so references to men “lying” with men in the Hebrew text and Paul’s letters, the most notorious of which is found in Leviticus 18:22: “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.” (Evidently, the only reason one lies with a female is to have sex. But is it okay if I lie with a woman until I need glasses? Sorry, I digress (impishly laughing to self with tongue firmly in cheek)).
The Hebrew term, shiqquwts is translated as “abomination” by almost all translations of the Bible. The similar words, sheqets, and shâqats, are almost exclusively used for dietary violations. Toeba, is also translated as abomination in some texts. Many modern versions of the Bible translate it as “detestable”or “loathsome.” I hear one Rabbi refer to it as “yicky.” Biblical literalists interpret this to mean that same-sex sexual activity is an abomination and therefore inherently sinful. (Note, however, that it is not one of the Ten Commandments).
However,please consider that a word or phrase which has been translated through multiple languages over centuries and the subject of great debate and disagreement among the worlds great scholars and theologians, inherently, cannot credibly be taken as a modern-day literal truth. Moreover, this supposed proscription was part of what is called the ancient Hebrew Holiness Code which highly regulated the everyday lives of ancient Hebrew men, from what they were to wear to what they were to eat. Violations of these rules were also called abominations. The code referred to how they were to treat one another too. Later prophets make this clear. In a little referred to scripture, Ezekiel says at 16:49-50: “Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me.” Clearly, Sodom’s lack of hospitality is the abomination.
Yet, there is no mention of the word, “homosexual,” again defying the literalists. They cannot rely on the literal words of scripture to reach the result they want, but must interpret the meaning of the words used through their various translations over time in spite of later clarification within the Bible’s own pages. Now I wonder how to characterize the above quotation from the ESPN announcer. Is it hospitable, or detestable and loathsome? Is it an abomination? What would Ezekiel say?
The outline of my sermon yesterday from Living Waters United Methodist Church, Belgrade. Scripture: Acts 5.27-32
Most of us want to be liked.
That in and of itself isn’t anything new- it’s a fairly universal trait.
Most of us also want to stay out of trouble.
Again, simply human.
But when being liked and staying out of trouble aren’t an option when standing up for the truth… Well, that can be a real problem can’t it?
Let’s listen again to the scripture for today.
When the temple police had brought Peter and the apostles, they had them stand before the council. The high priest questioned them, saying, “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this Name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you are determined to bring this Man’s blood on us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than any human authority.”
That’s what we heard today. What we didn’t hear is the passage that came after that.
When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them.
A Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel spoke on their behalf, reminding the council of others who had come and gone before them, all claiming to have been sent by God-all of whom had failed.
And then Gamaliel gave the council this advice:
“So in the present case, I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone; because if this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail butt if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them—in that case you may even be found fighting against God!’
They were convinced by him. Then when they had called in the apostles, they had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.
They left the council, they rejoiced that they were considered worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the Name. And every day in the temple and at home they did not cease to teach and proclaim Jesus as the Messiah.
Talk about getting into trouble.
Talk about not being liked.
But what did these disciples do?
They did something all heroes do- they trusted their hearts. They followed their conscience. These men and women preached the Gospel of a God who is in love with us.
And most of them died for it.
Often very cruel deaths.
Just to do the right thing. To proclaim love.
Today I want to ask a very simple question:
“When should we choose love?”
Seems simple doesn’t it?
And yet, we make decisions every day that are not loving.
We can exclude people, we can hoard things, we can lock our doors and load our guns in fear, we can drink too much, we can eat too much, we can lie to ourselves, we can lie to others- sometimes simply to stay out of trouble or to be liked by the right people.
Well, the Jesus who died on the cross, rose from the dead and sent his disciples into the world to proclaim a crazy, loving God doesn’t want us to let the world get in the way of love.
That’s what these disciples knew. That’s why they stood in fear of their lives in front of the courts, why they suffered scourging- just like Jesus- why they refused to deny love.
Because they saw love, risen from the dead.
And so have we.
You know it, in your hearts, you see it every day. Love risen from the dead. You can even create it if you like.
You’ve seen a child’s face- crushed by disappointment- restored to life by a word of encouragement and love.
All you have to do is restore someone’s hope.
All you have to do is not deny anyone their dignity.
All you have to do is trust that we are more than our fears.
All you have to do is open your heart- and your mouth and eyes and ears and hands and feet will follow.
Just open your heart.
Let us ask our God to give us eyes to see the opportunities to build the Kingdom of God- right here, right now.
And when you feel that feeling rising up in you, the one that says, “I want to be liked, I want to stay out of trouble”, the one that wants to close your heart down, will you know what to do?
I think we do.
We stop and recognize the choice in front of us: To be open or closed; to be loving or cruel.
So, when do we choose love?
Every time we can.
As a disenfranchised Catholic, I cannot help but be intrigued and even a little hopeful about Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation. I do not like Benedict even though I love the church. I grew up Catholic, was both an altar and choir boy, and even considered becoming a priest. I can’t imagine how that would have turned out.
Nonetheless, the American/Roman Catholic culture became my culture. My friends were Catholic. We attended the Catholic grade school and church at the corner of my street. I later went to a Catholic high school and college (University of Dayton). I especially loved the new music in the church, and played and sang those songs in a church music group for years. I even came to appreciate the deep meaning and spiritual significance of the Mass and other Catholic traditions.
I miss those parts of being Catholic because they are so much a part of who I am. However, like so many others, I can no longer tolerate both the fact of clergy child sexual abuse, and the church hierarchy’s cover up of the same. Neither can I abide the church’s homophobic positions, philosophy, and teaching. Did you ever notice when Benedict has discussed these, he does not refer to scripture, nor even mention Jesus, let alone his teachings about love and lack of judgment. Perhaps this is because the gospels, ostensibly, have also sanctioned the power of the Vicar of Rome, the Successor of St. Peter (“I say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it,” Matthew 16:18, New American Standard Bible (©1995), emphasis added), as well as his minions, to assess judgment upon sinners.
Purportedly, this power, conferred by Jesus himself in John 20:23, New American Standard Bible (©1995) (“If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained”) takes precedent in the minds of the Church over Jesus’ direct order: “This is my commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you” John 15:12, New American Standard Bible (©1995). And, what about this rather direct admonishment? ”Do not judge and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. . . .” Luke 6:37, New American Standard Bible (©1995).
I have never heard an explanation for this elevation of one of Jesus’ principles over that of others, and would love to read the apologetics which justifies this doctrine promulgated by the self perpetuating (and protecting) hierarchical system known as the church. But, that is perhaps another matter.
Be that as it may, apparently not all church members agree with these judgmental policies. “Equally Blessed, an LGBT-inclusive Catholic group, issued a statement upon Benedict’s announcement and said members were ‘grateful that Pope Benedict XVI had the foresight and humility to resign his office for the sake of the church to which he has given his life.’
The organization added that the Roman Catholic Church now has the opportunity to change the church and overturn oppressive, homophobic policies.
‘We pray for a pope who is willing to listen to and learn from all of God’s people. We pray for a pope who will realize that in promoting discrimination against LGBT people, the church inflicts pain on marginalized people, alienates the faithful and lends moral credibility to reactionary political movements across the globe. We pray for a pope who will lead the church in looking the sexual abuse scandal squarely in the eye and make a full report on the complicity of the hierarchy in the sexual trauma inflicted on children around the world. We pray for a pope who is willing to make himself vulnerable on behalf of the voiceless, the poor, the marginalized and the oppressed.’” http://www.advocate.com/politics/religion/2013/02/11/pope-benedict-xvi-announces-resignation.
I wish I could be as genial and hopeful, but, sadly, I must acknowledge as have others that many of the Cardinals who will select Benedict’s successor (and from whose ranks he will be chosen) were handpicked by Benedict himself. Thus, it is very likely that they share his views and support his policies.
I pray from the depths of my soul for a pope who will truly believe these words from a popular Catholic hymn*:
I, the Lord of sea and sky,
I have heard my people cry.
Who will bear my light to them?
Whom shall I send?
Here I am Lord, Is it I Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go Lord, if you lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart
*Written by Daniel Schutte and recorded by Daniel O’Donnell in 1981 after Vatican Council II. Its words are based on Isaiah 6:8 and 1 Samuel 3. The song was then published by North American Liturgy Resources which later was purchased by New Dawn Music, a subsidiary of Oregon Catholic Press. It’s been used at many Papal Masses. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (Citations omitted).
When John Lennon sang, “Imagine there’s no heaven . . . And no religion too,” I did not like it, having just been born again. I had found God, and the English translation, New International Bible was my ticket to keep what I had found. I loved the Bible, and read each page with fervor. They told me every single word was literally true, and I believed it.
Never mind that many of those words were written by ancient Hebrew men for Hebrew men, and other of those words by citizens of ancient Rome; that they were written in equally archaic and foreign languages including Hebrew and Aramaic, and then translated into Greek and Latin; and, that they were written in the context of limited understanding and ancient customs for an audience of people with equally limited understanding and ancient customs; and, that they were later edited by the Catholic Church during many great councils into what we know today; I believed that those words were actually God speaking to me in 1976, and many times since. (Yes, I am that old).
I wanted to know who and what God is, and believed those words were the path of discovery. As intellectual as I can be, I chased that knowledge for many years. Yet for all that I prayed and read and asked for God’s will in all things, the spiritual life that had once begun so earnestly lay in ruin like a dry rotted old Montana homestead cabin. Only the vestiges of livelihood remained. At the end of the day, I was still drunk and demoralized. I was spiritually dead, and cursed God for all the inherent contradictions in “God’s Word.” How could I, a God-fearing, born-again, right-wing, Republican Christian be what I was beginning to realize was my true self – a transsexual? That was against the Bible.
But, what if the Bible was not a literal document? What if it is a compendium of inspired writings about the nature of God, and God’s interaction with humanity and our world? What if my experience of God was eqaully valied and important, as John Wesley suggested? What if the bible is not a religious, quasi-legal code book securing the salvation of my soul, as much as it is inspiration feeding the life of my soul right here and right now? When I turned to God with these questions in the pit of my soul, God answered. God said, “Bobbie, you are a beautiful daughter of God.”
When I was scared and confused about the truths I came to know about myself and who I am, God asked me dance, and smiled. God reminded me of a simple, yet fundamental truth about God. God is. That is all. It does not matter whether I know or understand who or what God is – just that I know that God is. Once I cast all else aside, and became open to that single, vital truth I was free to experience God – I mean right here, right now. God continued to dance with me and smile through every step of my gender transition.
It does not matter that others would say it ain’t so –that I have misinterpreted the will of God. God speaks to me in my soul, not theirs. Because I have experienced God there, I know that God is, and that God loves me for all that I am, and exactly what I am. Now, that is redemption! Maybe that Lennon guy was on to something after all.