Monday, January 2, 2017

I Can't Sign on the Dotted Line

Am I a Christian? At one point in my life, it was the single most important definition of who I was. But now, I struggle with that question. When I met with some of the ladies from "Freed Hearts", (a private Facebook group of Christian moms who have kids who are LGBT, many of whom have left the church because, like me, they do not believe anyone chooses to be gay) I made the comment that I didn't know if I was still a Christian. Immediately one of the moms seemed so concerned and looked me straight in the eye and proclaimed, "you ARE still a Christian!" In some instances this might have offended me (if it was intended as a "don't you dare deny Christ!" kind of way) but I knew her heart was to encourage me and help me believe that I am still connected. And I do believe that...in an existential kind of way...which is kind of the problem. My connection now is felt with the whole of humanity, and that puts me in direct conflict with the religion of Christianity. 

You don't see the conflict? You think Christianity is about loving your neighbor as yourself? I know it wants to be, and I know it tries to be. But the verse does not say "as good as you treat yourself", but instead just "as yourself"...like, "you and I are one". Jesus even said "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me". But Christianity has a tough time figuring out who the "brothers and sisters" are. I came face to face with that conflict as I was trying to figure out how to get health insurance now that I've quit my job.


A friend, who is a cheapskate like me, (I prefer the term "frugal") recommended looking into a Christian based insurance company because of it's low cost. I cringed and said "I don't go to church anymore". He, like the sweet gal mentioned earlier, was unfazed and said it didn't matter, because that's not what makes a Christian. With a bit of trepidation, I said I'd look into it.


I didn't have to look far to know I couldn't sign on the dotted line. And it hurt. I hadn't realized how much I wanted to be able to "pass" as a Christian, and to feel like even though we have varying understandings of scripture, a love for Jesus and a desire to follow him is what unites us. But "love" was not mentioned once in the "testimony and commitment form" required to qualify. Let me tell you what the #1 thing I needed to agree not to do in order to belong, and I do mean literally the very first thing on the list:


• I do not engage in sex outside of traditional Biblical marriage, which is a union of one man and one woman. I understand that when any member of the family chooses not to live by these principles, I have a responsibility to notify the Christian Care Ministry. (My LGBT daughter is currently not in a relationship, so I guess she might be covered until I had to "report" her. I wonder if remarried people give notice every time they have sex, since that is outside a traditional marriage as well.)


But the fact is, I wouldn't have even made it to the sin management page, because first I had to agree to all the "correct beliefs" on the "Statement of Faith" page; beliefs like #2:


  • "I believe the Bible is God's written revelation to man and is verbally inspired, authoritative and without error."

So I'm assuming that "authoritative and without error" means "we get to tell you what rules are the important ones by pulling out a scripture and you don't get to question it". It doesn't matter that the apostle Paul questioned scripture by declaring circumcision unnecessary, and basically taught that the Spirit leads and has authority instead of the letter of the law. It doesn't matter that he said "We are not bosses who tell you what to believe..." (2 Cor.1:24) because Christianity is now a religion about correct belief. Mark all the boxes about doctrine, and you're in. And don't ask questions, because all the correct beliefs are already 100% understood and the Bible is "without error".

So, I couldn't agree that I believe the Bible is without error, because I know of one very important error in translation that has led to a central belief in Christianity that I think is completely wrong. If you are bracing yourself for a lecture on the nuances of the Greek word "arsenokoitai" in regards to homosexuality, you can relax, because I'm not going there. I'm talking about a much bigger foundational belief--the one that doesn't just say homosexuals are sinning, but that they are going to an eternal hell. (Along with Buddhists, Seventh Day Adventists, Mormons, and everyone else who does not believe the correct things, including probably me. Oh, and Carrie Fisher and George Micheal, according to Franklin Graham's latest Facebook post.)



The word I'm speaking of is "aion", which has been translated as "eternal" in a few important verses, even though that is not it's meaning. "Aion" is used and translated in many places in the Bible. Definitions include "a cycle of time" or an "age" or "one of the many ages stretching into eternity". That is quite a contrast to "eternal", which denotes having no beginning and no end. So whenever "aion" is translated "eternal" instead of "age", it is saying not only that the punishment will never end, (a thought too horrible to imagine...not to mention completely pointless) but that it has no beginning. How can a punishment have no beginning? If the naughty "goats" (vs the good sheep in Jesus' parable in Matthew 25) are to "go away to eternal punishment", how is that possible?* And wouldn't it be a relief to clarify that if you find yourself in the "goat" category (which ironically are those who did not understand that helping the "least of these" was helping Jesus) that any correction you receive would be for a period of time, for the purpose of teaching you something? (Why do you prune a tree? To hurt it? Did you know the Greek word translated as "punishment" in this verse was one that was used to describe the pruning of trees? Who cuts off branches so they can "punish" the tree?) A good parent disciplines their children to teach them something, don't they? Isn't that the whole point? And it does seem that the Bible tries to explain God in the same way, as in: "When your judgments come upon the earth, the people of the world LEARN righteousness" (Is. 26:9) or "For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child" (Heb 12:6)

But I guess this sort of loving discipline is only for Christians, because those are the ones God loves. Of course Christians will argue and say God loves everyone, and gives them a chance at "salvation" (which to them means forgiveness and going to Heaven when you die) but that darn free will just gives God no other choice than to send everyone who doesn't say the sinner's prayer before death to a place of suffering WITH NO END...and how can we argue, when we are told it's what we all deserve anyway.

I know I'm being a little snarky. I'm sorry, it comes from a place of deep frustration. It's not that I want to be disrespectful to Christians. Most of my family and friends are Christian. I know that their hearts are not to condemn people and they are truly loving. They roll their eyes at the preachers that stand on corners with signs, and understand this is no way to demonstrate the love of God. 

But these same Christians would still agree that "belief in Jesus is the only way to eternity in heaven", (another box I couldn't check) so even though they would ridicule this guy's sign, (and who wouldn't?!) that theology means for sure the Atheists and Muslims are indeed headed to eternal damnation...the only two that have nothing to do with actions! (well, besides "yoga pants") Oh well, too bad, so sad; but they "chose" it, so let's not talk about it. Except I have to talk about it, because if only we would revisit this one mistranslation, the theology does not read this way. And once you can start reading the Bible without the lens of "where will you spend eternity when you die?", you begin to see it's so much more about living than it is about dying. And "belief" is no longer a scary "do I believe the correct things about Jesus so that God won't reject me", but rather, "can I really believe I am one with Jesus, who said he was one with God?" And then "the kingdom of God" is something so much more than where we go after death...it's something that is found "within us". And that kingdom can be used to make a difference in the here and now. 

And what about some other beliefs that the Bible says are important? I wish there were other boxes to check on a "Statement of Faith" form. For instance:

  • "I believe Christ came claiming the human race as His own, to the end that He would save and restore the entire race, not just part of it".(1 Cor. 15:22 "For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive." John 12:32 "And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself") 
Or maybe even one that said:
  • "I believe God will never give up on anyone"(Luke 11:22 "What man of you, having 100 sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the 99 in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, UNTIL HE FINDS IT?")
Or how about:
  • "I believe death is not an obstacle to the power of God" (1 Peter 4:6 "For to this end the Good News was preached even to the dead, that they might be judged indeed as men in the flesh, but live as to God in the spirit". Rev 20:14 "Fear not...I have the keys of death and Hades")
Then maybe "salvation" could be seen as something bigger and better than making it into heaven when you died...maybe even something as big as EVERYTHING being restored to it's fullness. (For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself ALL things, whether ON EARTH OR IN HEAVEN. Col 1:20 If this is what our "hope of salvation" was, then we wouldn't be drawing lines to figure out who is in and who is out; but instead that hope would be moving us forward in love and trust that "neither DEATH OR LIFE, or angels nor rulers, or things present or things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor ANYTHING else in all creation, will be able to separate US from the love of God". **(And if "us" does not mean all of humanity, then this love is conditional: how can it not be?)

And if we truly believed this, then we wouldn't even need "Christian insurance" that was only for those who could mark the correct boxes. We would want to care for our neighbor, whoever that might be, as if we were caring for ourselves; because we would truly believe that we are all in this together.

*It was pointed out to me that "eternal" can also be defined as "perpetual", which does infer a beginning. Though if you look at all the places that "aion" has been translated to "eternal", I think you will find that "perpetual" still would not fit. But you don't need to take my word for it. The "Young's Literal" translation has it correct as "age-during". It was published in 1862 and is considered by many scholars to be the most accurate. You can find this translation in any Bible translation search engine.

**This scripture is found in Romans 8:38-39, and it does go on to say "that is in Christ Jesus our Lord". I left that out, because Christians will take that part and say "see, it's only those who believe in Jesus that are not separated from the love of God". But I will address that next time when I tell you why I couldn't mark the other "correct belief" box on the Christian insurance website saying "I believe our sin is forgiven only through faith in Christ and his atonement for our sin." But here's a teaser...how did Jesus go around forgiving people, when he hadn't even "atoned" for their sin yet?


Saturday, September 10, 2016

#PleaseStay


I don't talk much about my teenage suicide attempt. My 16 year old self almost feels like a completely different person; someone who obviously couldn't imagine my now 48 year old self. But I do remember her, and the horrible lies she struggled with.

Maybe "lies" is not the right word. They were accusations, condemnations, criticisms...and the reason they hurt me so much was because there was always some truth to them. "You claim to love God and others, but all you ever think about is yourself"..."it's because you're so vain that you care so much about what others think of you", and so on and so forth. It was that critical voice I'm sure anyone reading this is familiar with, even if they did not grow up religious. But along with these observations about my shortcomings came downright lies; "You will never change"..."You are such a disappointment"..."You would be better off if you weren't even here". It only takes one night of drinking and listening to that voice and a split second decision to take a bunch of pills to end a life. I'm thankful beyond words that it didn't end mine.

When I say I feel so much different than that 16 year old who criticized herself too much, I don't mean to imply that voice is not still a part of my daily existence. I am all about analyzing my actions and the motivations behind them. But this is what my 16 year old self did not understand: that being kind to myself did not mean I was ignoring the things I wanted to change. I can observe my not so great behavior with compassion now. It's okay to mess up: it's how I learn. The voice is mostly gentle now--encouraging and accepting. I could not believe back then that I should love my dark side; but now I see that opening myself up to the foundational truth that love cannot be earned is the only thing that actually changed me. To me, it is the very meaning of grace, and what it means to be saved (transformed) by it.

So to any young soul reading this, or old soul still learning to quiet their condemning voice, I want to end with a quote from one of my favorite authors, Richard Rohr: "In the Economy of Grace, nothing is wasted." When I can apply this belief to myself and others, then I can keep hoping that no mistake, hurt or mess is beyond having the ability to be used to transform us. And none of it, ever, can take away our value. You are loved. You are precious.You are a part of all of us. We are children of God. Please stay and keep trying to see it. Life is worth it. You are worth it. 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

A Letter

My mother died before my daughter came out. My biggest fear is that she wouldn't have supported me in wanting to fight for LGBT rights; though I'll never believe she would have rejected Amber. I would of course wanted her to be proud of me for speaking up...but I'm afraid she would have been silently disapproving, just like most of my family. When someone in my support group (for moms with gay kids) showed us a letter her mother had written her, it hit me hard. Though I don't believe my own mother would have written such a letter, I needed to respond...not to her memory, or even to this other mother I don't know...but to everyone who judges me, and the beautiful LGBT community that I now love. Here it is:

I know that your advice to me to read my Bible is coming from a place of deep concern. You are worried that I am allowing my child to be deceived by the world, by Satan, by the influences of a corrupt society, and that if I don't stop her we will both be lost forever. My heart aches, because I hate that you live with that fear. I don't want you to think I have no respect for the Bible, or that I'm willing to turn my back on God so that I don't have to worry about offending people. I wish so badly that you could see that it's quite the opposite, actually. 

People have approached scriptures differently ever since there have been scriptures to approach. Some see the Bible only as a "manual", a book of rules; others see it merely as history, and others see it as the key to eternal life. Jesus said to the religious authority of his day that "You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life." (John 5:39-40) 

You believe I'm not taking the warnings in the Bible seriously, but you couldn't be more wrong. Though, what I see is not warnings about rule following, but warnings about being so sure that you have God and scriptures and rule following so figured out that you miss out on what it means to truly live. The scriptures speak to me in a way that lets me know I can concern myself so much with appeasing what I think is an angry God, trying to do everything right, that I will miss out on opening myself up to love and grace--the very nature of God.

As much respect as I have for the Bible, I have to appreciate that it was written in different times in history, with different cultures and scientific understandings and worldviews.When our country was at war regarding slavery, the biggest defenders AGAINST freeing slaves were Christians. Paul speaks to slaves in his Ephesians letter, addressing them to obey their masters. Either you will take that scripture and shout "The Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it"; or you are going to appreciate that Paul is only addressing what is normal in society at that time, not making a rule. His overall message is never about rules; but in fact, being set free from the idea that rules are what saves us. 

I understand the Bible speaks of men and women in marriage. Of course it does. Sexual orientation was not anything that was on anyone's radar in those times. Yes, men and women coming together is God's "plan" to make babies, making it what is normal. I'm not arguing any of this. But God does not despise what is not normal. Do you think he hates the hermaphrodite?* What "choice" do they have with having the "right" kind of sexual orientation? Are they supposed to never love another, simply because WE are upset with the fact they can't be placed into a category? When I read the Bible, I see that God is FOR the outcast; the one society sees as disgusting or unclean. "God chose the lowly things of this world and despised things, and things that are not, to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him." (1 Corn.1:28) 

During Paul's day, the biggest threat to religious order was the rouge Jews claiming that circumcision didn't matter any more, (a VERY clear instruction found in scripture) along with the claim that a man named Jesus was fully God and had fully reveled the nature of God--and that his nature was not angry, disgusted, or wanting to destroy humanity; but instead so in love and connected to humanity that he is willing to suffer and forgive and continue to seek and save and redeem the hurting and lost until he brings all his lost sheep home. But the religious "experts and scholars" of that time could not accept such a "soft" view of an almighty God. 

I may not be able to convince you to see the LGBT community as I do: a gift from God--helping to bring us further into a freedom from seeing our physical bodies as what defines us; and showing us that now we are no longer identified as male or female, Jew or Greek, slave or free...but one in Christ. But I hope I can convince you to stop worrying. The truth is, I have found the BEST followers of Christ in this community, exactly because of the reason mentioned above in Corinthians...the lowly and despised are humble and don't see themselves as better than others.

Regarding again the religious authority in Paul's day who didn't get what he and the new Christ following Jews were all about, I would like to bring up one wise leader who gave this advice on how to handle them: "Leave these men alone. For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourself fighting against God." (Acts 5:38-39) Even if I cannot convince you that I have not been deceived by Satan, I hope you can trust God and "leave me alone" to pursue the direction I believe the Spirit is leading me. Please trust I am not going forward without much seeking and prayer. Let's both determine to love and respect each other's journey and leave the judging to God; knowing he loves us both, and his judgments are good.  

* "intersex" is actually now the preferred term. Maybe you roll your eyes and accuse me of being politically correct; but I want to be sensitive to words. If someone says they are uncomfortable with a certain term, and I refuse to listen, I don't think that I am doing unto others as I would want done unto me. I kept "hermaphrodite" only because most people are more familiar with it. For anyone unfamiliar, the definition is: An intersex person is born with sexual anatomy, reproductive organs, and/or chromosome patterns that do not fit the typical definition of male or female. This may be apparent at birth or become so later in life.


Sunday, January 18, 2015

Moving On

I know I have been angry, and I've hated it. Anger is an emotion I've never been comfortable with. I hate to generalize, but I do think most women have been trained to avoid anger...or at least to avoid looking angry. Anger is not sweet, submissive, or beautiful-- which is what we are told women should be. We may master annoyance, or feeling "hurt"; neither of which can contain true rage. That emotion is too powerful and scary, and speaking for myself, I have had no idea how to deal with it. Recently though, I find my bitter and accusatory voice has quieted itself substantially. I don't know if I can say I've come to accept my anger, or if I've made peace with it, or what exactly has happened. Though it seems I'm finally at a place to move past it, which has been my prayer all along. 

I will say this though, I don't know if I could have made it to where I am without the help of anger. That's the power of it, right? It gives us energy we didn't know we had and gives us the strength to fight. But it can be a dangerous fire, as we all know, that can do more damage than good. The Bible warns that "the wrath of man works not the righteousness of God" (James 1:20) because I think usually our ego is it's driving force. But not always. The love of God can be a wrathful fire as well, and that Spirit of God is within us. How do we operate using that Spirit, instead of our flesh? I want with all my heart to learn, and I hope with all my heart that I am.


"The Church", (or maybe religion?) has been the focus of my angry and accusatory thoughts and judgments for the last several years. The problem is, any church and every religion consists of people--real people I love and shouldn't judge. It's been a conundrum. Something that has been so helpful and soothing is to find a group of people (a FB private group of Christian moms with gay kids) that feel my pain.They get it, because they are in the same boat. I was fortunate enough to meet a handful of them in person at the Gay Christian Network's conference that was held in Portland earlier this month.The spirit of that conference, and the beautiful example of so many who are living in grace, forgiveness, and acceptance in the midst of the worst circumstances, has given me so much hope. 


The other major factor in helping me move forward is the wise writings of Richard Rohr. (along with others, of course, but I think he is my favorite) With their help, I am learning to meditate. I talk about this with almost no one; not just because it's deeply personal, but also because I'm embarrassed. I know what many Christians think about meditation, and I don't want to be judged. That's why I am so thankful for Richard Rohr and others like him, because without them I would not have dared ventured into those terrifying waters.The spirit of love, wisdom, and compassion that shines through their words helps me let go of fear, and I am deeply grateful.


I am going to end this post with quotes from the book I am reading now. These are the words that are helping me see that the steps I have taken through religion were important steps, and shouldn't be looked down on or despised. These words are healing my soul. I quote them also with the hope that the wonderful ladies from my group will also read them, as I want so badly for us all to move forward in a positive way and not get stuck in yet another group mentality that just perpetuates the divisions of "us" and "them". 


(From "Dancing Standing Still" by Richard Rohr):


"...we have to begin our spiritual journey where Jewish revelation begins, and that is with Torah: law, structure, identity, boundaries, certitude, order, authority, and clarity...this is how religion must begin. It keeps us inside the right boxing ring until we know what the real issues are and what is worth fighting for...however, there must be something more than Law, or we have no need to go on any journey at all, much less a journey of faith"


"Once we move to stage two, there is an emergence of inner authority. The first level relies almost exclusively on outer authority. Once you begin to know for yourself, once you've gone deep and have met the Holy One, you find that your reliance upon outer authority lessons...Many people are so angry and disillusioned with where outer authority has led history, governments, and churches that they pull all authority inside themselves: 'I won't trust any tradition, any big explanation, anything except my experiences. I will personally create meaning'.


"If you stay in stage one (conformity) or stage two (criticism) you are in no way ready for mystery, paradox, the collision of opposites that is the Cross, or, quite simply, you are not ready for adult faith...the movement from stage one to stage two is experienced as a major dying...This is why there is so little transformative religion; much religion is either a belonging and belief system that asks almost nothing of you, or a reward/punishment system that, of course, doesn't really invite you to fall in love with God at all, but relies upon conformity, along with disguised threat, shame, and fear."


"However, everyone gets tired of critique after a while. We can only build on life and what we are for, not what we are against...mere critique and analysis are not salvation; they are not liberation, nor are they spacious...We only become enlightened as the ego dies to its pretenses, and we begin to be led by soul and Spirit. That dying is something we are led through by the grace of God and by confronting our own shadow."


"It took me a long time to recognize that my need to judge was not really a desire for truth, as I had convinced myself it was. My need to judge was a desire for control and to be right. That's what is taken away from us in meditation, and that's why many will never go on the inner journey. It gives us some kind of comfort to feel superior and secure; momentary comfort that 'I am right' takes away our anxiety. Don't believe me? Watch your own behavior. Control is the first need of the ego."

"The False Self will always need to win, be right, and, if possible, defeat the other...The soul defines itself by expansion and inclusion--not by saying "no," but by offering a kind of courageous, risky "yes"; "Yes, I am like everybody else, capable of the same good and the same bad. They are all my brothers and sisters." The soul knows we are all equally naked underneath our clothes."


"If your whole identity is being a Republican or Democrat, you had better not pray (meditate) you really had better not, because your Republican/Democrat identity just isn't going to mean a great deal. Nor will your black/white, gay/straight, rich/poor, American/Asian, or even Christian/non-Christian identity be your rallying cry. You are an utterly new creation, and finally "Christ is all in all".


Amen; let it be!!!



Thursday, January 15, 2015

My Caterpillar Anti-Miracle

"My caterpillar died"...that was the reason I gave my pastor for why I was having a complete crisis of faith. I did a terrible job of explaining it then, (almost a year ago) and I've been hoping ever since that somehow God would make sense of it. And when I got that clarity, I would write an inspiring essay summing it all up with a neatly bundled conclusion as to why everything's going to be alright. 

Oh, how I wish I was sitting here with those answers. I want signs and wonders; I think they will give me certainty. But I think I understand now, that no matter how clear the sign or marvelous the wonders; life will bring us a reason to doubt...and sometimes more than doubt.

So, back to the caterpillar story. Caterpillars are nature's testament of resurrection. We've all used the caterpillar as a sign of hope for our future transformation, right? Except when my daughter and I stopped at a bug museum in Bremerton, I did not buy a caterpillar with any of that in mind. (I actually wanted to torment a friend of mine who is terrified of butterflies--but that's another story)

As that little jar sat on my windowsill, I don't know when it started to represent hope to me; but it did. I needed that butterfly; I needed a sign from God so I could keep hanging on. At the point when the caterpillar stopped moving, and just laid on the bottom like a rotting lump, it felt like God giving up on me. Actually, not just me, but US. That stupid caterpillar was despair on display, and every time I walked through the kitchen I wanted to weep. But I couldn't throw it away.

It was Easter time. I kept thinking about how hopeless things had looked for Jesus' disciples. Jesus was dead; it was over. None of them believed he was coming back. They were not encouraging each other to just "hang onto faith". Their only question must have been "what now?". Whether you believe Jesus rose from the dead or not, one thing is clear--it was not the faith of his followers that brought it about. So I kept thinking...even though I was certain that caterpillar was dead, it could still be alive, regardless of my thoughts towards it. 

Would you believe that on Easter morning, I found that caterpillar hanging from the top of the jar and in the process of forming his cocoon?  It's true; and it was nothing short of a miracle to me. In the following week, I shared my story of hope to my husband and daughter in the midst of their own crises, bringing even more meaning and joy to this wondrous sign that had been given to me. We all watched over that jar as if it contained the future of the universe. 

After two weeks, and even after the cocoon fell and turned into what looked like a raisin, I still could not throw it away. I put it in another room so I wouldn't have to look at it, but I still hoped with all the hope I could muster every time I dared peek that I would see a butterfly. I think it was another two weeks before I decided to bury it. I had a little funeral for that butterfly that never came to be--with just myself, and a God I feared truly might be mocking me. 

"Faith is a gift from God"--this is what the Bible tells us, and I've experienced it as true. I still have hope. In all my doubting, anger, worry, and crippling despair, God sustains me. I have no answer for it. And though I can't end this story with a tidy assurance filled image of setting my butterfly free, we know there are still butterflies in the world. I can even say I'm thankful, because my anti-miracle experience has given me a tiny comradeship with the millions upon millions of others with crushing disappointments and lack of answers. The other night on Dateline I listened to the story of a man falsely imprisoned for years. He prayed, he believed, and after many attempts he was miraculously released and granted a second trail. While awaiting his court date he basked in his freedom and lived fully, believing with all his heart he would be acquitted. I mean, how could God bring him this far, just to take it all away? I don't think I need to tell you the end of that story, and I still have more. With prayer and faith a friend's son is brought back home after being on the streets for nearly two years, only to die of a drug over dose after being clean for 10 months. How do we not cry out, "WTF God?!", or as Job so eloquently phrased the question, "Does it please you to oppress me?" Yet somehow, both these people hang on to hope in God, and they are just the tip of the iceberg. I don't mean to sum this up with anything neat and tidy, but I really think this faith in the face of all that is horrific is the real miracle...and like every miracle, it comes to us all by the grace of God. 


Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.
--Emily Dickinson




Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Living in the Light (SOAP Journal #10)

(from my old journal: dated 8-2-07)

S) You belong to the light and live in the day. We don't live in the night or belong to the dark...so we must stay sober and let our faith and love be like a suit of armor. Our firm hope that we will be saved is our helmet. (1 Thes. 5:5)
O) This whole chapter is talking about looking forward to Jesus return. If we really believe it's going to happen, we will behave in such a way as to reflect that.
A) Not only do I want to stay sober in a physical sense, but especially in a spiritual sense. I will give an account for all I do in this life: I can't forget that!
P) Thank you Lord, that I no longer belong to the dark-you have brought me into the light! Help me live to show others your love; and that I really believe your coming back.

As I am transcribing my old journal and re-examining the things I wrote, I am trying to put my finger on the things that feel prickly to me now; or that I just plain don't agree with anymore. The thing about the light vs the dark that bothers me now is how it creates an "us" (the good people that God loves) and "them". (those sinners who aren't doing the good things that we are doing)  And when this happens, the "suit of armor" becomes a way to protect ourselves from "them".

We know there is a problem with this attitude, because Jesus hung around sinners. Sinners never felt like Jesus was just too good for them, and Jesus never seemed afraid of sinful people dimming his light. His light drew them! If Jesus had any words of "reproof", they had a healing affect and "woke them" into believing they were indeed loved children of God!

all the things reproved by the light are revealed, for everything that is revealed is light: for what reason he said, 'Arouse yourself, you who are sleeping, and arise out of the dead, and the Christ shall shine upon you'.(Eph. 5-13-14)

The group of people who 'slept' through Jesus first coming were the ones who were sure they already had all the answers. They didn't have any need to be told about who God was; they had their scriptures already memorized, thank you very much.



It seems to me that this idea that the "second coming" of Jesus is for the purpose of giving all those sinners what they have coming is the problem. It makes this "helmet of faith" a protection that we will be "saved" from the wrath of Jesus because we believe the correct things. Does this seem right to you? Is this what Paul means by "firm hope that we will be saved?"

I have come to a place of peace with understanding that Jesus "coming again" is a mystery. Do you realize you will never find the phrase "second coming" in the Bible? There has already been a "second" coming of Jesus. He appeared to Paul, right? If we are truly to be made into the image of Jesus, then isn't our presence in the world like a "coming" of Christ? If my "being saved" means becoming "complete and lacking nothing", then isn't my "salvation" a hope not just for myself, but for everything and everyone around me? Read this scripture with that in mind, and see if it doesn't make much more sense.

You see, all of creation has collapsed into emptiness, not by its own choosing, but by God’s. Still He placed within it a deep and abiding hope  that creation would one day be liberated from its slavery to corruption and experience the glorious freedom of the children of God. For we know that all creation groans in unison with birthing pains up until now.  And there is more; it’s not just creation—all of us are groaning together too. Though we have already tasted the firstfruits of the Spirit, we are longing for the total redemption of our bodies that comes when our adoption as children of God is complete— for we have been saved in this hope and for this future. (Rom 8: 20-24)

It seems to me we have been so focused on trying to figure out what it is we need to believe and do and perform to insure that we will be safe and not blasted by God, that we have missed the entire point of salvation. Maybe God is not interested in sending Jesus back to earth to destroy all the horrible sinners and blast the earth...maybe God is interested in refining each of us (yes, with fire...maybe it's not hateful after all) so that EVERYTHING can be transformed and salvation will come to the whole earth. I know it's not Hollywood's interpretation of the coming doom and paranoia of being "Left Behind", but it's the ending I'm hoping for. And that belief is a firm hope and a "helmet" that gets me through some dark days when it seems nothing will ever be right and good. Jesus is coming! Lord, let it be through me.



Thursday, August 28, 2014

Worry (soap journal #9)


S) Don't brag about tomorrow! Each day brings it's own surprises. Don't brag about yourself, let others praise you. (Proverbs 27:1-2)
O) The Bible says several times that we shouldn't brag or worry or generally over concern ourselves with tomorrow. Certainly it doesn't mean we can't ever plan or prepare, but it's hard to know where that line is. Also, verse 20 struck me...why is it so hard to be satisfied? Is it good or bad to always be striving for more? It seems to be saying it's bad, but yet I'm always feeling guilty about not striving for more.
A) To continue to look to and depend on God for my present happiness and my future well being.
P) God, help me to find that peace and balance I so long for. I want to live each day to it's fullest, without worrying about tomorrow. (soap journal originally written October 2004)

I can't think of one time in my life I didn't struggle with this idea of not worrying about tomorrow. Even now, as much as I believe God has showed me over and over that I can trust...I can't trust. I don't think about each day's "surprises"; I think about how tomorrow everything is going to go to hell in a hand basket, because I didn't do anything right. If your wondering what verse 20 says, here it is:

Sheol and destruction are not satisfied, And the eyes of man are not satisfied.

I'm finding this connection interesting...death and destruction, and the eyes of man that can never be satisfied. This constant clamoring the ego does to surround itself with accomplishments or stuff or whatever it is that will make it feel valuable can never be satisfied...and it's hell trying. But at the same time, isn't this part of what it means to have a human existence? We struggle to survive...are we really supposed to just sit around and wait for provision to fall out of the sky like manna? Maybe we are; I mean Jesus gave thanks for the bread and the fish and there was enough for everyone...more than enough. He taught us to pray for our DAILY bread, he pointed to the birds and asked why we worry so much about taking care of ourselves when the birds are free to live their lives without worry and still have all they need. Except I do see dead birds at times, right? Death keeps us worrying; but the fact is, death comes regardless. In the meantime, I really do want to know what it means to truly live...God, please show me.