Every kind of trafficking in evil report or rumors—whether true or not—by carrying them from one person to another, or by relating unpleasant or harmful facts about another, is forbidden.
–The Encyclopedia of Jewish Religion
Words with Friends
A few months ago, I was having a conversation with Ilene, one of my closest friends, about some issues that persistently tear my family down. One of the things I love about Ilene is that she comes from a family that is truly Jewish—she knows way more than most American Jews about their history, culture, religion, philosophies and many things both Yiddish and Hebrew. I come from a staunchly Christian family. I know a hundred hymns by heart and I can quote Scripture at the drop of a hat. Over the years I have learned many different perspectives from Ilene, and I can talk faith and family freely without recourse (or remorse). So, I told her about the spirit of negativity that hangs over us and influences our speech.
Invariably, when our family gets together, one or two of us finds ourselves at odds with another, and walks away hurt and damaged. What’s the deal? Why can’t we lift each other up and focus on the good things God has done for us? Why do we expect each other to agree all the time and get twisted when someone has a different viewpoint? We are all adults between the ages of 58 and 89; why do we dig our heels in and insist on being right? What happened to the compassion and tolerance we crow about and the love of God we say we have? It all seems to turn into a great big soapbox when we’re at odds with each other. We’ll pray together then say things that are hurtful and only vaguely accurate afterward.
As I spilled a heavy heart into the phone, Ilene just listened. After a while she broke in and said, “You know, we Jews have a term for that, we call it lashon hara, and maybe it’s something you and your family need to learn.” Continue reading
A Little Fight Music
All my life people have told me that I’d outgrow my love of hard rock—that I would mature out of my youthful angst and leave Headbanger’s Ball in the dust. I never did—the more I grew, the more my metal-head grew, too. I earned my nickname “Haze” when I was barely into double digits in age, because of my love of Jimi Hendrix. And so began my addiction.
Earlier this week I drove to my office for a couple of days; it takes just over two hours when there’s no traffic. I take that time to think, pray or listen to music. On this trip I listened to my go-to favourite, RED — master of non-standard Christian themes, hard-driving rhythms, and pulverising vocals. Master of making me feel closer to God. I listened to every drumbeat, every guitar riff, every lyric as if I didn’t know them by heart. I paused when the guttural screams were coming. I took a deep breath when they were done. By the time I made it to Deerfield Beach I was in tears. Music does that to me. Continue reading
My favorite band. Ever.
My beloved father, Hesketh Johnson, who has been a Christian for 70 years and a pastor for about as long, asked me the other day what I think it means to be “saved”. I answered quickly, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ”. Feeling it was too simplistic an answer, I follow ed up with “… if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Rom 10:9, ESV) My dad is asking everyone the same question these days, I think he wants to know what each of his loved ones believe so that he can have peace in these later years.
Sometimes believing isn’t so easy.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my answer and what it means – to me – to be a Christian. It’s such a complex term in “world-speak” and even more convoluted in “church-speak”. There are so many versions, so many descriptions, so many interpretations. As soon as I give what I think is a simple, clear answer, the guillotine comes smashing down. I’ve been going through a lot of beheadings—or at least some good sound thrashings—lately from a variety of sources and it’s disturbing. Even more distressing—heartbreaking, actually—is the vitriol with which some defend their theology. Before I go any further, let me be clear — I’m a novice, a layman’s layman at best, I ask my dad about almost everything that requires genuine Biblical knowledge and understanding. Continue reading