Thursday, January 18, 2024

I'm Not Ashamed of the Gospel

As the snow falls, and my regular routine is halted, I am forced to do something different than what I always do. I love routine - the comfort of not having to think. I think too much. But I am, thinking. So I'll just lean into it for today. 

My father died recently. His memorial is a week away - at the church I left 13 years ago, and partially returned to last year. It's so much to explain; a lot has happened since my last post. To sum up: I want to live as if everyone is my brother and sister. I don't want differences in belief to get in the way of how I I try to show up at church whenever I can and tell myself I belong. 

But I am struggling. Case in point: the thought of the "salvation message" being brought at my Dad's funeral is causing many emotions. I met with the Pastor who is doing his funeral - a dear friend of my dad's and a dear man. It's not that love is missing. We are just on totally different pages when it comes to what a message of salvation looks like. When I was trying to explain what I was nervous about to the Pastor, I said I didn't want people to feel manipulated. He replied by saying we are told not to be "ashamed of the gospel." 

My Dad feared death. That's a normal reaction - the unknown is scary. But his faith was supposed to give him assurance, right? Except he couldn't help worrying that he wasn't going to "make it in." (Something he only confessed at the end.) So for all the talk of Jesus sacrifice erasing his sin; his sin still felt like a weight. As hard as he tried to do everything right, it never felt like enough. He was anxious, all the time, about pretty much everything. And though I'm sure much of that was his Parkinson's, I never knew my Dad as peaceful. His world view was quid pro quo, reward and punishment, and justice as retribution.Therefore, Jesus sacrifice was a payment, buying my dad out of hell. A transaction. And so Dad owed gratitude to Jesus, and devotion. But did he feel loved by God? 

What would my message of salvation be?
"I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love."

And when we can believe this (possibly the only "correct belief" that matters)...when we know in our heart that love is never earned - that all the gratitude and devotion and good deeds and tithes and church attendance and Bible memorizing will never earn it - we will be changed. (Salvation!) And that love, flowing now because it's not trying to be generated within our small, selfish egos, will pour out into everything and bring salvation to the whole earth. Such different good news than "Believe in Jesus so you won't go to hell when you die" -- a gospel that I am indeed ashamed of.  

Other references you may enjoy:

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

No Need to Save Face


"Life is a ride not a fight,no need to save face,say goodnight grace"

(Citywide Rodeo Lyric)

I love this song by "The Weepies". It tells the story of a rodeo clown who is all washed up, and believes he's (or she's?) "not good for anything." On a deeper level, I feel it is also telling my story...and yours. It's the well understood struggle we all have with identity and meaning. 

My Christian identity struggles with the idea that life is not a fight. Of course it's a fight! Everything about it is a fight! We "fight the good fight"'s what our whole human experience is about; if we dare claim we are on the side of good.

But then there's this thing called grace. What is it? Is it having someone else suffer my consequences so that I don't have to? How can grace be about settling a score - even if someone else settles it in my stead? But when I ask someone to "show me some grace," am I asking just to be forgiven? Forget what I've done, and don't bug me about it anymore? Or am I asking for compassion? An understanding that what I struggle with, you also struggle with. Empathize with me - don't judge me!!! I know that's the grace I need, and the grace I have to give if I expect it for myself.

When I see grace this way, then it does become a way of giving up the fight. I don't have to prove I'm the good one and you're the bad one anymore. I don't have to fight to earn love anymore. I find a different identity for both of us, for all of us, when I find an identity in grace. We all come from the same source, so there is no need to compete for a better identity, because we are united with the same identity of "child of God." The "fight" now becomes: do I actually believe it?

I looked up "Citywide Rodeo" on the internet to see what others had perceived it's meaning to be. I found this one particularly profound, and so I think it makes a fitting end:

"I think this song is about how we all fight against the perceptions people have of us - rather pointlessly, really. But there's "no need to save face" because "this is a ride, not a fight." The line "you wonder how fast you'll go when you hit the air" (getting bucked off a bull's back) is a metaphor for realizing the "dust in the stadium seats" means all your enemies and spectators were imagined. We are our worst enemies, after all. You should "step into your car" and leave your self-criticisms and feelings of insufficiency behind. "Look up at the indigo and pick out your star" means realize who you are."

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Can You See the Light?

Today my husband asked me to go downstairs to "check it out". Not knowing what "it" was, I assumed he had set up the extra room for his band practice, because I knew he was wanting to do that. (Maybe there was even a new drum set?!!!) When I got to the room, nothing was set up. I was really confused. Suddenly he was behind me laughing and saying, "Do you really not know what's different?" I gave him the deer in headlights look. Let me explain that we have track lighting in that room...and just about every bulb had been burnt out for what seemed like forever. Now all the bulbs were replaced, so the room was FILLED with "how in the world could you not notice" brightness after months of barely being able to see in there. But I was expecting drums, so I totally missed it. When you think you already know what "it" is, sometimes you can't see what is right in front of you. 

In reaction to my post "I Can't Sign on the Dotted Line", I have to admit I get pretty frustrated when people ask me "So, you think everyone goes to heaven when they die?" or email me, "Maybe you're right, maybe God overrides all aberrant decisions and free will." But until you can past the idea the Bible is about "knowing where you will spend eternity when you die" (a direct quote from the last funeral I attended) I'm afraid you won't be able to "see" what I'm trying to show you. Though I'm going to try anyway, but please put the "drum set" out of your mind for a minute. 

I finished the aforementioned post with the teaser, "How did Jesus go around forgiving people, when he hadn't even 'atoned' for their sin yet?" I had a dear old friend private message me this scripture:

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth. When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” For “you were like sheep going astray", but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter 2:21-23) 

Then she concluded "Kelly, this is in response to how could Jesus forgive us our sins when He had not yet atoned for them...He's perfect, that's how." I'm pretty sure she must not have been tracking with me when I asked the question, because her interpretation of this scripture is the perfect example to me of the problem. She has been taught (as the majority of Christians in this hemisphere) that the point of Jesus' perfection was so he could be the sacrifice needed in order for God to forgive us. But this scripture seems very clear to me that the point was so he could leave an example for us to follow. (Side note: how can we be expected to entrust ourselves to a "judge that judges justly" when we think God's judgment is "eternal torment for all...unless they have the free pass of believing in Jesus' atoning sacrifice"?...that is not justice, and we know it.)

I think I understand why we have trouble accepting that we are to pick up our own cross, and the reason we had to make Jesus' crucifixion about a substitute punishment. It's because the "way" Jesus is asking us to follow seems impossible. (Love our enemies? Turn the other cheek? Give away EVERYTHING?) We can't do it; we've tried. The more we try, the more obvious it becomes that we are unable. Why would he ask us to follow where we can't go? He must have only wanted to demonstrate how incapable we are of doing what he asks of us, so that he could take all this failure on himself, suffer the consequences of God's "just judgement" in our place, and then somehow magically when we die we become just like Jesus.

Except we at some level understand this is not what the Bible actually says, because all this talk about substitute punishment goes completely out the window when it comes to other people's sin. It's one reason I continue to talk about the "gay issue" --because it exposes this problem so very well. Suddenly this "free gift of salvation" changes to, "You want to be a Christian and live a 'gay lifestyle'? Oh no...unless you repent of that sin, you are going to hell. Sorry about that, but the Bible is 'clear'."

It's very confusing, when you're taught that the "grace" that gets you into heaven is a "get out jail" card Jesus earned for you... but then you read a verse that says "work out your own salvation". You are told gay folks can't be a part of the kingdom of God... but then look at the whole verse and see that greedy people can't either. How do you know if your "greed level" is low enough to get you in? You are told Jesus satisfied the wrath of God so you don't need to worry...but then you read Paul's warning to fellow believers in Rome that they are "storing up wrath for themselves". Does this wrath have to do with not receiving grace, or is it against the gayness and greediness? Actually neither; Paul was warning about judging others apart from love, something we are all extremely good at doing on a daily basis. Is Paul meaning to frighten these people into not judging others because God will send them to an eternal hell if they do? And how odd that they could "store up" something that is greater than eternal? Isn't eternal wrath kind of the maximum you can get?

Is it possible that wrath could simply mean "consequence" reaping what you in the measure you judge, you will be judged? You might wonder, "So does that mean if I judge others to an eternal hell, I will suffer the same fate?" Maybe if you actually thought that, you'd be more interested in the mistranslation in the Bible of eternal in regards to punishment; but my intent is not to scare you, but to free you from that fear. I don't think fear is what leads us to God. It may be the "beginning of wisdom"...the very start of our journey...but in the end, perfect love casts out all fear. 

Knowing and being transformed by this perfect love is our goal. That is the "salvation" that is being worked out in us. Are we there yet? No. Do we still suffer consequences when we act outside of the law of love? Yes. But consequences can teach us, if they are not eternal. And of course we are still "saved (transformed) by grace!" Everything we are has been freely given to us, but our egos have made it instead all about competition and proving we are better than others. When we let go and "die" to that small self who has to earn approval and love, we discover our true self! That is our life that is "hidden with Christ in God".

So, if the "good news" we are asked to proclaim is "Jesus died on a cross so God can forgive us", what is the "good news" Jesus is going around proclaiming BEFORE he dies for our sins? Maybe it's "change your thinking" (the meaning of 'repent') "because the Kingdom of God is not a place, it's right here-- inside me, a human. That is where God is...and that means God is found in you too. Start believing it!!!"

Maybe the whole point of Jesus coming was so we could see that God is inside of humanity (Emanuel...God with us, revealed in us) and through the Holy Spirit, reconcile us to the idea that we were made in the image of God. But unfortunately, as Richard Rohr states, "this full participation has been just too much for the psyche to believe."

So we switched it around to make the point of Jesus coming instead about God's plan to reconcile himself to us. We thought God needed to be appeased of his anger at us (because "justice" supposedly demands punishment, even though we are asked to forgive) so Jesus stepped up to the plate like a brave sibling taking a beating for his brother. 

But what does the scripture actually say about this "reconciled" business?
"All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled US to himself" (2 Cor. 5:18)
WE are the ones that needed Jesus to show us the face of God and convince us God isn't an angry man in the sky. But there is an even better scripture about reconciliation in Colossians:
"For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself ALL things"...
Isn't that a bright light worth trying to see?

P.S. I know I alluded to many scriptures without giving the specific reference; I was worried that doing so would bog it down...but for anyone who is curious and wants to read more about the "storing up wrath" scripture, I go into more detail on the "Here Comes the Hammer" post. Here's a link...but you have to copy and paste, sorry!

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 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", "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'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 did Jesus go around forgiving people, when he hadn't even "atoned" for their sin yet?

Saturday, September 10, 2016


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, have 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 cruel 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 actually quite the opposite. 

People have approached scriptures differently ever since there have been scriptures to approach. Some see the Bible only as a "manual" or 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 do 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!!!