Who is Richard Gilman?

There it was. In the beginning to the beginning of the book mid-sentence. I stared at the unexpected words wondering if they were real. The book, recommended to me by a blogging friend of mine (Julie) over at Cookie Crumbles to Live By was barely through the preface when I was hit over the head with what seemed to be a boulder. A bold statement that just couldn’t be true. A statement that prefaced a book about two German siblings who started an underground movement against the terror that was Nazi Germany and the Hitler regime. I had barely braced myself to read another book I may not make it through about the Holocaust when the pain came before the story began.

Hans’s “conversion” process is more intellectual than Sophie’s, his spiritual growth being nurtured in large part by books. Many of these are by French Catholics, among them Leon Bloy, Paul Claudel, George Bernanos, and Etienne Gilson (ten years later these same writers would play a central role in my own temporary conversion to Catholicism.” (excerpted from the Preface to the American Edition of, “At the Heart of the White Rose, Letters and Diaries of Hans and Sophie Scholl.

I had never quite seen the words “temporary” and “conversion” tucked so neatly away in the same sentence. As if to say, I found God, it was good for a while and now I am on to trying something else…As if to say it is that easy to move on from God…

The words stirred me so much I had to stop reading the book and instead start to find out who Richard Gilman was. I had already said a silent unprompted prayer for His soul that I felt may be languishing in the throes of purgatory. It was like he was stuck between here and there and just couldn’t see his way out. I broke down and cried for a man I did not even know.

But the news of his “temporary conversion” grew worse still. The article in the New York Times was punishing. How could it begin like this? The title of the piece was What He Found, What He Lost, but how exactly does one lose God?

Eight sentences in I learned. Richard Gilman was a self-proclaimed Jewish “atheist” who became a Catholic and left the church eight years later. Why? According to the summation of his book Faith, Sex, Mystery, because, “there was no place for him in the church either sexually or intellectually…After he left the Catholic Church he briefly tried to return to Judaism, but found there was nothing to return to; he has never been a part of anything.” 

And strangely I could see the Judaism that he spoke about. The one I myself had left to embrace my wholeness in the Church, only to realize I never left Judaism at all, but rather found it in the Savior’s arms. I thanked God for my time in a non-denominational church which taught me not only the fundamentals of Christianity but also the scriptures. I was able to embrace the Catholic Church because I had known the savior. The Church was Him walking me home…

It occurred to me that Mr.Gilman may have had a romance with the Church and all its beauty but lacked in His relationship with God. I too had been drawn in by the false promises of other religions and practices, temporary “fixes” that focused on me and self rather than God. I never believed that God didn’t exist, I just chose to look elsewhere for meaning and purpose in life. God was an entity to me, a concept, not a personal loving friend who offered me salvation.

And I imagine that there are so many others out there like Richard Gilman. Those who are searching for the truth in false religions or new age models. Those that have rejected God because they have chosen to yield to the world and its desires rather than take the narrow road. And there are those who have labeled themselves “deconverts” as if somehow that makes God not to exist. In any case, they are all people who have chosen an alternative to God.

I don’t think Richard Gilman stopped believing in God, I just think that he chose to have his own way. Maybe because the romantic pull of the Church was just that; a fantasy he had created in His own mind. There is nothing romantic about Christianity. It thrives on the notion that suffering is good.

But if one can get past their own selves, if one can reach for God as if a child, if one can believe that nothing else is needed but God alone, the truth of the Church will shine brighter than the sun. I grieved that Richard Gilman never found that truth. But maybe his life was meant to be read about to produce conversion. To draw those to Christ who have clung on to the lie that there is such a thing as “temporary conversion”; and not in the sense of the Church but in the lies of the world. For in Christ there is nothing temporary- there is only eternal. 

 

 

 

 

Women as witnesses: We are always wearing the veil

Angel, Bad, Choice, Cupid, Decisions, Devil, Evil, GoodThe tradition of women wearing a head covering during worship is nothing new. As a Jewish girl, I was drawn to this practice at a very young age, picking up the small piece of white lace and placing it over my head. I felt protected and separated for worship in a holy way. That practice was between me and God, a secret that I had inside of me. A longing to know God and be closer to him.

My search for God became more traditional. Wanting to celebrate the Sabbath, go back to the sanctuary on Saturdays and an exploration of becoming kosher. The harder I tried to conform to the Jewish law, the harder I fell, and Yom Kippur did not seem to help me at all. In fact, it was Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement that led me away from me practicing my Jewish faith. I saw it as a great hypocrisy, that the Pharisees of my day would live ungodly lives 364 days a year yet on this day they were the most pious and reverent Jewish figures. I, as a pauper in synagogue, would be relegated to the nose bleed section, sometimes even in a different room from where the Rabbi was. I did not have the necessary funds to buy my seat. I had spent years under the notion that I had to pay to pray, and well, it drove me farther away from the God I loved.

In my search and quest for the truth, Christianity had never dawned on me. As a Jew, my understanding of Christianity was that all gentiles were Christians, that they were one and the same. But the concept of Jewish people alone being set apart by God haunted me, and even as a young teenager, I made it a point to invite several of my gentile friends to my bat-mitzvah, because I knew God loved them too. It was this idea of being set apart that drove me to leave the synagogue, along with its mercilessness attitude against women and their role in the religious life.

I did not come to Christ, Christ came to me. He had come to me several times before in my life, although I did not recognize him.  In my late teens and early 20’s, I was constantly invited to church, and many times I went. In my seat I would be crawling, waiting for God like in the Old Testament to strike me down. I was betraying Him just being there. And after many services I ran away like I was being chased, because well I was.

God tried to reveal himself to me, but I was not ready. I was not ready to lose my Jewish friends and community. I was not ready to be ostracized. I didn’t hear him because I was angry that he had taken my grandmother away from me. But when she died I took the Christian concept of death and incorporated it into her funeral. We celebrated her life, released butterflies and sat a short Shiva. I had been to enough Christian funerals to know that they were doing something right.

So when God led me to the Catholic church, a land I was unfamiliar with, He allowed me to see the fulfillment of the Jewish girl I was. Without knowing any doctrine apart from the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, I knew I was home. The altar, the tabernacle, the cups of wine, it was all familiar. The Torah was there but not in the form of scrolls, but instead in the form of Jesus. There was the singing of Psalms, and this time I understood them because they were not in Hebrew. But it was in kneeling before God that I felt something was missing. I later understood that call to be the call of the veil.

Wearing a veil for me completed who I had always wanted to be inside and memorialized my intimacy with God. My inner longing to be His bride was finally coming to be. I had long revered nuns even as a Jewish girl, and the mysticism their veils produced in me. I remembered the feeling of walking into that synagogue and reaching for a head covering. It was part of who I was and now am.

God calls all women to veil in special and set apart ways. Veiling is a spiritual reminder of our holiness before God. This veil we wear whether physically or spiritually is to be carried out in our Christian practice in the world, this is what sets us apart as Christian women, our holiness, our service to neighbor, our care for our families and to the sick, the poor and imprisoned. We are set apart not because of our ethnicity or religion, we are set apart because we are followers of Jesus Christ, and ALL are invited.

I am reminded by the veil that I am especially set apart by God because of my Jewish roots and conversion to Christ. I am reminded that I will always be Jewish which sets me apart for Christ. I am reminded that my thoughts on God having only the Jewish people set apart for himself were right, and that God wants all people to be his sons and daughters. And I am reminded that He has chosen me to accomplish this through wearing my veil at church and in the world.

“But you and your sons with you must take care to exercise your priesthood in whatever concerns the altar and the area within the veil.” Numbers 18: 7(a)

This is a wonderful video on veiling that I encourage all women of all backgrounds to watch. This is also the company I order all my veils from and have loved every veil I have ordered! And as I always mention with any company I support , I am not getting paid in any way to endorse Veils by Lily.

God reigned from the wood

Animal, Fight, Fighting, Lion, Mammal, PeopleOld prayer books and hymns, there is something to be said for them. We are more into HD tv’s and fancy apps then we are old, dusty books. I don’t know if things were better back then, but the years were certainly closer than we were to when Christ was on the earth, and I am moved by the depth of the words that I just can’t seem to find depth in these days.

Sometimes we have to go backwards to move forwards. Look at things and people who had insight into God. We forget that God speaks through His people, the prophets, the saints, the ones walking around. I think sometimes we miss Him because we are expecting an answer to come from somewhere else. God told me no less than 52 times through 52 people that it just wasn’t time to move yet, but I couldn’t accept that and I moved on to number 53. But yet I didn’t move. What kept me where I was? God reigning from that wood…

I have realized that even in my rebellion, even when I have not accepted, could not accept what God’s people have told me, I listened. Oftentimes we are too hard on ourselves. We are naturally unruly people which is why we need God so desperately, and God works on one thing at a time. If we are fighting to move in the direction we want to go and yet remain in the same place because God has not given us the go-ahead to move, we are still walking in obedience, and God is working on our wrestling skills…

We have no condemnation in Christ Jesus. Guilt is not conviction. If we are writhing and struggling we are showing signs that we are changing. Resisting God’s love maybe, but not straying or walking away. Sometimes an all night wrestling match may be what we need. Walking into our closets and not coming out until God has gotten what He wanted from us. Until we are free from ourselves…

I am still in the same place despite how I feel. I will not move until and unless He has said so. In the three years I have been praying the same prayer, my circumstances have not changed, but I have. He is preparing me for war…

And I cannot be a soldier if I cannot handle the ones here. I cannot run with horses if God does not prepare me for what is to come.

And although many times I cannot find the words to pray, God hears my conversations and my thoughts and my prayerful readings. He hears the beating of my heart, and my longing for more. He knows my anxieties and my fears and wants to quiet me. There is so much comfort in that. Knowing that even though I may not have the words, I do.

In order to explore His depth, the ones that came before us, the books that contain Him, the people who contain Him, we must be listening. The world must be placed behind us, underneath us, under our feet. We must live like monks in a world filled with noise. We must choose the narrow road.

Moses answered them, “Wait so that I can learn what the Lord will command in your regard.”

Numbers 9:8

The Desert Route

Jordan, Desert, Wadi RumThere are nights I want to crawl into my own skin… how about you? The desert route seems the only one, making my rounds in the uninhabited wasteland of desolation. I walk around for a while and things get quiet. I realize, this might not be such a bad place after all.

I have nothing else but Christ, nothing else matters. If my mouth and my lips and my tongue must be dry and desperate for me to hear him, so be it. I’d rather die in a wasteland with Christ than in the lush entrapment of this world. Sin is sad and wretched. We hate to repent. We hate the truth. Turning inward is torturous. It is desolate, and waterless. I want to be good. 

We need an encounter with Christ, in the desert. We need an area devoid of life so we can give ours up. We need to be without water and food. We need to be hot and tired and alone.

Church is beautiful and needed. Don’t live without it. Let God move you there and eat and drink of Him. Make peace with your neighbors. Kneel. Repent of your sins in community. But God is not going to skin you alive in church. That requires the barren road, the isolation, the desperation to be found in Him. It requires us to want Christ more than anything else. 

How can we proclaim Christ if we cannot even face ourselves? Our pride and our own sin? Our hypocrisy, our religiosity. Deep inside is our desert, our barren, our wasteland, our messiah. It is uncomfortable to think our skin must come off to attain holiness. But time is running out, life is running out, we do not have time to worry about the pettiness of this world. There are souls who don’t have salvation. Our brethren are being murdered.  The world has achieved a new level of insanity. If we cannot, will not be bare before the Lord, who will be?

Want nothing else. Want for nothing else. Pant for nothing else. Read no one else. Dance with no one else. Love no one else like you love Him. Shift everything else to the side. Exist in the wasteland until you come out with the light. Until you understand where it is you need to be.

“Then the angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, “Get up and head south on the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza, the desert route.”

Acts 8:26

An examination of conscience we can all understand

Confessional, Church, Furniture Pieces, Catholic ChurchFar it be for me to always understand the ways of God. Many days I feel trapped in a spiritual prison without bars, where my solitary confinement has been preceded by my falling away from the face of Jesus. This usually occurs for me when I cannot see things through the eyes of Christ, I have a human let-down, an expectation that God did not grant, words from the Lord that meant something different than I anticipated. And in those times, even through my daily scripture reading, my fervent prayer of the rosary and echoes of Gregorian chant I sometimes drift further away, until it is time for God to get my attention.

In sifting through the book of Leviticus, particularly Chapter 14, a treacherous and muddy book to trek through, I discovered gold. It was in fact an early look at examination of conscience for me, an infection of soul that God had given me in order that I may let Him in to clean my spiritual house. I gasped as the words on the page tiptoed silently around the confines of my heart. I realized I was afraid. I was afraid to let God point out my shortcomings, my pride and my greater desire to do my will then His. He had to infect my soul in order  for me to realize that I had a problem. I had to allow Him in, and accept the trial He had given me. The house must then be cleared out before the priest goes in to examine the infection. I realized the following principles I needed to follow in order for my soul to be quarantined and freed.

That the infection was in fact bad, and went deeper than just the surface, and I had to remain isolated and away from all else but Christ for 7 days.

That I must begin clearing out this infection . (There are various levels to the infection, some running deep within the walls of our souls.) In those cases, we have to remove ourselves, isolate in prayer and closeness and communion with God until we feel we have completed that time as the Holy Spirit leads us.

If the infection of soul has come back, Jesus will come to clean us, if we ask Him. But we must recognize our infection of soul and repent, lest our whole house come down.

It was a needed awakening to the state of my soul, a cleansing, an “it’s ok come back to me” panting that my soul had been searching for. For if we do not recognize the sin or mire that we are in, if we don’t let God in, if we go at it alone, He will find a way to get our attention.

Lord Jesus,

Help me to recognize my infection as I bring it to you. Help me to clear my house. Help me to quarantine myself to be with you until our time together is complete, until I have recognized my uncleanness and have been cleaned by you. Help me to examine my conscience in this way as to not have my house be brought down. Show me what to pray and how to pray. Cleanse me thoroughly so that I may be worthy of entering the plan which you have for me. Show me the error of my ways. Show me exactly what you want me to do while we spend these 7 days together, or the number of days which make this process complete.

In your name I pray,

Amen