Journaling That Doesn’t Suck – 8/24/2016

Good advice. Not everybody has profound personal spiritual experiences. No one can experience what I experience and vice versa. Ultimately, whatever experience we do or don’t have is between the individual and whatever God there is alone. Whatever we can say or paint or sing or write about transient and transcendent spiritual experiences comes down to art. Our God talk will never = truth that we should impose on anyone else. Yup, ignostic I definitely am.

Note to self –

  1. Never shit on someone else’s art.
  2. Be a prolific artist yourself. If anyone else relates, appreciates and finds value in it, that’s extra gravy. Maybe you’ll inspire a few artists to beautify the world. Maybe those few will multiply exponentially. I’ll find out on the other side, but that’s not my concern here and now. As long as I’m drawing breath on this side, pay attention, be inspired, and express freely and honestly, with or without an audience.

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Coming Out

Hello from the other side.

I’ve been away from blogging for a bit as I’ve been undergoing the final stages of a massive life overhaul, “massive” being a bit of an understatement.

Here’s a list of things that if you’d told me even a year ago I’d be doing now I’d have laughed in your face or possibly slapped it:

  1. Terminating 20+ years as a professional christian.
  2. No longer identifying as christian, except when I do (more on that later).
  3. Getting a tattoo.
  4. Relocating to Tennessee after 30 years as a California resident.
  5. Living separate from my husband for an indefinite number of years.
  6. Changing my political affiliation from Republican to Democrat with the intent to vote for Hillary Clinton.
  7. Learning to be happy, confident, healthy and whole – mind, body, and soul – for the first time in my life (despite the majority of people I know being unable or unwilling to accept any of that to be possible considering numbers 1-6).

The process of coming out has been exactly that – a process – spread out over the last decade, the final fiery refining crucible in the last year. The years leading up to this big one were all about wrestling with my comfort and security lust to be able to get to the place of being willing to die to everything in order to see what remained  – what held true – after all that was consumable and expendable was burned away.

To contextualize my life in biblical metaphor (which I’ve always instinctively done since childhood), the last 10 years were my garden of Gethsemane where I agonized over whether or not I was willing, or even able, to go all the way. The last year was Good Friday to Easter Sunday, actually doing it and seeing it through to the end.

My first post-resurrection blog is an attempt to reveal the pure mustard-seed-sized gold nugget that remains now that the flames have subsided. I totally just mixed my metaphors there, but you’re with me, right? That’s all I ask, friend…that you stay with me without fear or agenda. Hear me. See me. Me is all I can be anymore and all I can give. That said, here’s all of me that remains after dying.

Oh Hey, I’m Ignostic

I’m a personality profile, self-reflection junkie. I’m obnoxiously obsessed with it, really. Perhaps this is over compensation for my personal lifetime baggage of believing my true self was not to be trusted or respected. Figuring out the real me and then loving her by honoring and trusting her has been the single most important thing I’ve done in this process. Realizing the futility of looking to any other human for my self worth, be it my parents, church people (gah, such disaster there!), or even my husband, was the second most important discovery. Though it’s natural to do so, it is unfair to the other person(s) and doomed to result in bitter disappointment and distract from the real work that only I can do in myself.

That’s why I get super excited when I come across words or ideas that perfectly explain what it is I’ve been feeling but haven’t yet been able to put together cohesively in my own mind, much less able to explain to anyone else.

The concept of ignosticism or igtheism was one such “Oh, there I am!” liberating discovery.

Here’s a boring wiki explanation, should you care to read http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Ignosticism, but this is my take on it –

You might be more familiar with agnosticism, which claims nothing can be known about god’s existence, so the agnostic claims neither faith nor disbelief in god.

As an ignostic, one may claim genuine faith and spirituality based on personal experience (as I definitely do) but considers all god talk to be stupid, and by stupid I mean wholly inadequate to explain or quantify whatever god there is (my way of saying the “One True God”).

This very much includes my former tribe’s canonized god talk, the bible.

I no longer see the bible (though it was demanded I must) as “God’s Word.” I do see it as 100% the word of humans, gloriously representative of the complex mix of ridiculous, horrible, lovely, noble and sacred that we all are.

Am I calling the bible stupid and without value? Absolutely not. As I showed you above, the biblical stories, metaphors, and traditions are intricately intertwined into the tapestry of my life, from which I could no more untangle myself than I could unravel my own DNA…nor do I wish to.

Whatever honest human expression we create in regard to a conception of god is not stupid. It is holy and god-breathed in as much as a human made in Their image is. But to declare any of it to be absolute truth and to justify dehumanizing those who disagree CANNOT be God, and no matter how great the external pressure may be to conform, I will have no part in it. I’ve lived through (or rather ended up dying because of) so much human arrogance in the name of God.

Ironically enough, I take great comfort as I read the bible and see this cycle being played out over and over throughout the ages. There is nothing new under the sun. We have a long history of slaughtering prophets who dare challenge their culture’s iron-clad and bejeweled God Box, culminating in Jesus himself.

Sooooo, with this new perspective, I no longer entertain any thoughts or discussion regarding absolutes of “God is…” or “God says…” or “God wants…” but if a person is willing to engage in discussion centered on “what God is like” based on Jesus’ words and example, then I’m more than happy to engage.

The only absolute god talk that has any value to me is –

Whatever God there is, IS (I AM). God is Love. 

The only practical application (religion) I’m left with then is –

I AM in God’s image as a human. The only way to experience God is through my humanity. To worship/commune with/experience God is to cherish and honor the divine I AM that I am and the divine humanness of my neighbor. 

The quickest way to get me to disengage is to get angry and aggressively defensive with this very personal conclusion, as it is the only thing that remains after the inferno as my mustard seed nugget of faith and hope. If the simplicity of this so unhinges you, then you cannot handle ME, nor will I give myself over to you to be handled.

Heaven, Hell, afterlife? I don’t the fuck know, and – this is important now – neither do you, your grandma, your pastor, any preacher or teacher (celebrity or otherwise), religious tradition or any human that has ever lived and died on this planet, not even and especially the ones who wrote/edited/compiled/translated the writings a fraction of us in time and space call the bible.

You can tribe up around whatever god talk in which you find value and I won’t try to talk you out of it or think less of or belittle you (THAT would be stupid), but the only way for me to be now, on the other side, is tribeless – cage free.

Which begs the question:

Am I a Christian?

Hmmm, it’s complicated. I guess it depends on who wants to know and why. I know for a fact that I’m disqualified from being considered a “true Christian” by my former evangelical tribe’s standards. I’m well acquainted with the parameters of that particular God Box, and I definitely don’t fit within its confines. I tried stretching my legs within that box, but the tribe would have none of it. Rather than even consider doing a little remodeling to accommodate natural growth, they shoved me out and told me in no uncertain terms that I was not accepted there, for which I’m exceedingly grateful.

I’d spent so many years contorting and distorting myself in order to fit within that God Box that I honestly thought that muted and mutilated version of myself WAS my true self. I don’t think anything less than being ejected from that world would have gotten me out in the open and free. I was disoriented and in tremendous pain at first, but now I’m hitting my stride. The possibilities are wide open before me and I’m free to roam. Every once in a while someone within the box tries to shame me back in. It’s getting easier to just smile and say, “Nah Bro, I’m good, peace out” then continue to explore freely rather than waste any energy arguing about boxes.

But do I identify as a Christian anymore? Sometimes. Sometimes not. The week before we moved, my youngest son came down with strep throat. In the emergency room at 2 a.m. the clerk taking down our information asked about religious preference/affiliation in the event of a hospital admission and need for a chaplain. I paused for a second and then did what would have been unthinkable at any point prior in my life. I declined to identify as Christian and answered “none”…and it felt so deliciously right.

It took me a second to realize I had a big stupid grin on my face and how weird that must have looked, but that’s just it; no one cared. Nothing happened. No lightening bolts from the sky. No one jumped from around the corner to revoke my christian membership card.

Instead, a peace that made no sense, especially considering I was in the ER in the wee hours with a sick child days before moving, washed over me as I just let it BE what it IS, which in that moment truly was none, nothing, nada. I’ll have to do a separate blog on this sweet revelation and release into nothing and how I’ve never felt more connected to Whatever God There Is there.

Believing Jesus

On the other hand, I’ve never been more grounded in my understanding of what it means to be a follower of Jesus, so in that respect I am solidly and wholeheartedly Christ-ian. Again, the irony is great, but it is the shedding of all doctrines requiring specific beliefs about Jesus as being necessary for a get-out-of-hell-free card that would have most Christians I know refuse to consider me one of them. That used to bother me…a lot. I got over it.

It’s much easier now that I’m living in a place where no one knows my story and no one filters my identity through the labels of “pastor” “church” or “christian.” I get to approach each new relationship on my own terms, revealing what I choose to reveal about myself organically, no longer imposed upon and controlled by a system that tells me who and how I must be.

I’m free to believe Jesus without restriction and in full integrity as fearfully-wonderfully-made divine human me; free to live in and act out of the Great Truth of who I AM while upholding the sacred worth of every human who crosses my path without judgment or defensiveness.

What’s in a Name?

At one point I seriously debated whether or not to rename this blog, dropping any trace of “christian.” I also considered whether or not I wanted to (or should) continue to be the administrator of a FB group I started, Beautiful Rowdy Christian Bloggers

When I died, my appetite to convince anyone with god talk died as well, and much of what was being posted didn’t jive with me anymore. I don’t fit in the Progressive Christian God Box either, though that one is roomier, constantly being redecorated, and usually worth visiting from time to time, but I won’t be taking up residence there. It was the posts from fellow beautiful, rowdy prisoners struggling to be free of all boxes and find their footing on the outside that convinced me to stay.

Ultimately, I decided to retain the label of Christian, however loosely, whether anyone else thinks I have the right to it or not. It is no longer the unbearable, ill-fitting burden it once was. It was necessary and good for me to drop it completely for a little while, and Jesus never once balked or told me to get back in the box.

No. This is who was waiting for me just on the other side of death (gunna leave ya with yet another metaphor based on Matt 11:30) –

“Hey Girl, been waiting for you out here. Give me that ill-fitting burden you’ve been carrying for so long. It was never meant for you. Rest now and recover. When you’re ready, I’ve got a custom-made pack that fits you just right and is light enough to run with.” 

Be sure to check out David Dietz’s blog about God in a Box here. It was a major “Oh, there I am!” epiphany for me when I knew I was ready to start running again.

Peace out, Peeps of All Persuasions. You’re inherently beautiful and worthy. Do whatever you have to do to stay rowdy and running free. You are not alone.


*Inconsistency in capitalization of “christian” and “god” throughout this writing is deliberate and not a whole lot of typos. If I feel it, I capitalize. If I don’t, I don’t, no matter what formality dictates I should. I’m letting whatever IS BE regarding all things personal god talk.

Waking Up Outside the Cage

Although I have spent a lot of my life in jobs that require me to speak for God, I am still reluctant to do it for all kinds of reasons. In the first place, I have discovered that people who want to speak to me about God generally have an agenda. However well-intentioned they may be, their speech tends to serve as a means to their own ends. They have a clear idea about how I should respond to what they are saying. They have a clear destination in mind for me, and nine times out of ten it is not some place I want to go.

In the second place, too much speech about God strikes me as disrespectful. In the Upanishads, God is described as “Thou Before Whom All Words Recoil.” This sounds right to me. Anything I say about God will be inadequate. No matter how hard I try to say something true about God, the reality of God will eclipse my best words. The only reality I can describe with any accuracy is my own limited experience of what I think may be God: the More, the Really Real, the Luminous Web That Holds Everything in Place.

Even then, there is a good chance that my words will serve as an impediment for those who hear them. If “the Really Real” makes no sense to you, then you will have to find some way around that phrase before you can get on with your own description, which means that my speech about God has just done more to block your way than to open it. The only reason to accept such a risk is because most of us need to hear what other people say before we decide what to say about those same things ourselves.

From An Altar in the World; The Practice of Waking Up to God by Barbara Brown Taylor

Dying to Live and Love

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Boom. There it is. Plain words not shrouded in parable. Jesus gave the Pharisees what they asked for – a definitive “rule” to follow to be right with God.

I know, I know…we much prefer our Jesus as either a precious mute baby lying in a manger or as the silent slaughtered lamb on the cross, guaranteeing a ticket to heaven for those who will believe and confess just the right things about him. But there’s a lot of stuff he said and did in between that I’m just now seeing and hearing and allowing to infiltrate my being for the first time despite a lifetime in church world, half of that being spent in ministry and leadership myself. WTF have I been doing for the past 20 years and what bible have I NOT been actually reading to understand?


If Jesus is to be believed (which I suspect matters infinitely more than being believed in), loving God with my whole being is intrinsically linked to demonstrating love for my neighbor, and love for my neighbor, regardless if they look, live, or think like me (Luke 10:25-37), is defined by how I love myself.


I confess now to anyone who will listen how horribly I have failed in following this supreme two-fold commandment. It was not for lack of genuine desire to know and love God. It was not for lack of being raised by sincerely-motivated and exceedingly wonderful family (biologic and church) in a life centered around “right” worship of God.

What has been lacking is the ability to perceive the Great Truth – that I AM inherently loved, acceptable, whole, belonging and worthy. My ability to see and live in reality has been obscured and distorted by the Great Lie – that my default position is in no way lovable, acceptable, worthy or belonging untilor unless(fill in the blank with whatever “rule” or “fix” matches your particular brand of dysfunction).

In short, I’ve been duped into hating myself, berating myself, mutilating and debasing myself and trading the truth that God declares me Very Good for the lie that I am never, ever good enough and must exhaust myself to compensate for and mask my inadequacy.

Out of that self loathing comes all manner of resenting, judging, dismissing, degrading, and dehumanizing my neighbor, especially the ones who attempt to cover their shame in different ways than mine. Grape leaves? Psha! Everyone knows you’re supposed to use fig leaves. Cause BIBLE SAYS.

It’s been a hard, hard wean when you’ve been raised on the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil while being told it was the Tree of Life. The girl who has depended on that fruit for her survival and justification and “rightness” must starve and DIE if she wants to truly live.

She’s almost there. Dying is an ugly, desperately lonely business fraught with discouragement and temptation to quit and resume the old life of comfy, shiny deception where there’s plenty of company.

The last few years as I’ve honed in on this eternal Great Truth that IS, and has always been, in plain sight, the Great Lie has shrieked and swirled menacingly in an attempt to intimidate and distract me from the invitation to taste and see that the Lord is Good. “Don’t touch! Don’t taste! Don’t move! You will surely DIE!” So loud and persuasive but ultimately powerless and impotent.

Shut up, Satan (whether you come at me as Peter did to discourage Jesus in the form of pastors, parents, best friend or an entire church community) of COURSE I’m gunna die. That’s the whole point. I’m certain that in most cases you actually do care for me the way you do yourself, but that’s kind of the problem right there. You only have in mind the things of man and not of God. Your “reasonable” ideas of self preservation and success are a stumbling block and a dangerous trap. If you yourself won’t go with me, I understand…but get behind me and let me get to it.

Going all the way – myself – is the only way. The Way, The Truth, and The Life. Whoever wants to follow Jesus must deny their own justification, take up their own cross, and follow him into death. If I want to find my life I have to lose it. Only then do I have the capacity to love myself, my neighbor, and therefore God, in reality with my whole being as a whole person.

The Greatest Commandment on which everything hangs starts with this – I must resist the Great Lie in order to love myself…and the backwards way through requires self sacrifice and suffering. Jesus led the way and walks it again in me now.

The Truth does set us free, but we’ve got to be willing to die to everything else that encompasses the Great Lie first.

After a long season of starvation and death, it’s time for me to nourish and live. Coming up next, a much needed Love Letter to Myself from the only voice that gets to tell me the truth of who I AM. The lies have been allowed to have their way in me for far too long, keeping me from loving others, and therefore God, well.  See ya on the other side.

Stories That Change The World #15 – Letter to Beth Moore

My heart was broken on Sunday as a (queer) couple, who, along with their 4-yr-old foster son, had only recently started to call Four Creeks home, wept upon hearing we were shutting down. We were the only church in their lifetime that had seen and embraced them as sacred and loved humans…period. Hopefully they’ll continue to find connection and life with us as we transition to meet together and grow as family in each others’ homes. Love is supreme. Everything else has been stripped away, and for that I am so thankful. I beg you, brothers and sisters, to allow the false god of indoctrination and the celebrity voices that peddle it to be stripped away so that you can see and hear for yourself. Start by hearing people’s stories.

Serendipitydodah

Stories have the power to change the world … they inspire us, teach us, connect us.This is the fifteenth installment in the “Stories That Change The World” series.

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Killing Liberty Grace

Meet my big-thinker Mini Me, Liberty Grace. I’ve never been so in love with a name…almost as much as the girl. As much as I laud reason and practicality in my expressions of faith, there’s always been a significant vein of mysticism and natural contemplative spirituality winding through me too. I truly consider my daughter’s name to be prophetic. It was while I was pregnant with her that the first rumblings began…a stirring within me that God was up to something new for us, something powerful and free. God was indeed going to fulfill my lifelong yearning to experience Them in fullness and abundance, but there was going to be an extreme price to pay. Was I willing?


THE SPIRIT OF LIBERTY GRACE

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.

I’d ached and prayed for this since I was 16, but now that my sleepy eyes were adjusting to the brilliant light and my ears finally attuned to reality, in order to maintain any kind of integrity with what I was experiencing, I had to let go of some “absolutes” I’d been taught were nonnegotiable. It was an incredibly difficult and uncomfortable process, long before I let anyone else see me, but on the other side of that wall – Liberty.  

Taste and see that the Lord is good…

Freedom to investigate, smell, touch, taste, take or leave ALL THE THINGS. Freedom through experience to discover what is good, when and how much. Freedom from the fear of eternal damnation should I cross arbitrary lines or peer down a path someone before me had labeled “forbidden.” Freedom to move and view things from different angles. Freedom to change my mind with perspective. Freedom to use all the words (heads up for those who get the vapors over salty language, the end of this post is NSFW). And most definitely the freedom to screw up.

A necessary byproduct of freedom is alarmingly frequent failure, which is why Liberty is lost without her sister, Grace.  

Grace not only incorporates failure as a given, it transforms it into valuable treasure, not wasting a single experience. Grace redeems the wildness of Liberty…but without Liberty, there is absolutely no need for Grace.


THE ABOMINATION OF CERTAINTY

The opposite of faith is not doubt: It is certainty. It is madness. You can tell you have created God in your own image when it turns out that he or she hates all the same people you do.  Anne Lamott

Certainty is the despicable antithesis of freedom and grace.

Certainty is a false construct that chokes out Liberty in favor of conformity and absolute “rightness.” It enslaves. It inhibits. It discourages. It threatens. It controls. It lies.  

Certainty viciously resists and maligns Grace, because to receive Her is to admit inadequacy, which is never an option for Certainty.

Certainty shrieks and shames into submission, “DON’T touch! DON’T taste! DON’T move! NEVER screw up…or you’ll surely DIE!

It’s the flip side of The Great Lie the serpent sold Eve and a sacred metaphorical takeaway from the Genesis creation myth and the Tale of Two Trees <—-(future blog). If you find yourself with doctrinal hackles raised at my honest take of Genesis as an ancient prophetic Hebrew origins myth (it’s a talking snake, for cryin’ out loud!), may I calmly suggest you stop, take a deep breath, and reflect on your defensiveness, anger, and I’d wager if you looked honestly enough – fear – and question from where that might originate…and do you really think it’s from God?

*Hint* Aggressive defensiveness that seeks to inhibit and shut down is the fruit of Certainty, NOT of Liberty and Grace and the clearest indication we’ve been gorging ourselves on the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and not the Tree of Life.


WITCH HUNTERS – THE DISCIPLES OF CERTAINTY

A life of Liberty and Grace is proactive, always looking for what it can do

Certainty is entirely restrictive, focused only on what it can stop.

Certainty’s absolute “rightness” depends on someone else’s absolute “wrongness,” the perfect breeding ground for sanctimonious witch hunters and gate keepers obsessed with silencing the heretics. The wronger you are, the righter I am.

There is absolutely nothing new under the sun. The same Pharisaical spirit of Certainty and repression is alive and well, running rampant and largely encouraged in its destruction and division in the Church today.

Let’s play a little word association, shall we?

What’s your initial reaction to the name “Rob Bell?” How ’bout “Emergent Church?” I’m betting it’s one of these three:

  1. I have no idea what you’re talking about (bless you and I insanely envy you).
  2. *Looks nervously over shoulder and whispers * I kinda resonate with what he’s saying.
  3. HERETIC!! Burn the witch! Drive out the infidel from among us! Set phasers to KILL. 

SLAUGHTERING PROPHETS

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were unwilling.

I first became aware of Rob Bell through the rabid counter-movement to stop all things “Emergent” from infecting the institution from which we (Jimmy and I and Four Creeks) came. Had the witch hunters (which tragically made up half the church board) not whipped themselves up into such an aggressive frenzy, I would have been blissfully unaware there was any such “danger” to be on guard against. Jimmy simply didn’t care (sometimes I really hate how good he is at that). I, as usual, cared way too much. I made a calculated decision not to read or consume anything from Rob Bell, not because I was afraid of what anybody might think, but because I wanted to look people square in the eye when they asked us for the umpteenth time whether anything about our vision for Four Creeks was influenced by the Emergent Church movement and be able to honestly say, “No, Ms. Church Biddy who has the power to make decisions about my family’s livelihood and future, it’s all me and Jimmy and our own conscience and integrity.”

So assume what you will if you recognize any similarities between the Emergent Church movement or Rob Bell’s theology and what you can glean about mine. I really don’t care ’cause I honestly don’t know myself what they are other than what the anti-Rob Bell bandwagon continues to rail against ad nauseam.

What I do know is how much I hate the justification for such murderous division in the name of God. I’ve witnessed (and been on the receiving end of) so much destruction…the killing of reputations, relationships, and livelihoods, all in the name of Certainty and doctrinal purity by people who honestly think they are doing God’s work in being utterly shitty and discouraging, while most others are complicit in their silence and passivity in allowing such evil to go unchallenged.


FTSIO

The bulk of the drama is behind us…or at least I hope to God that’s true. I’m so very, very tired. But honestly, no matter how tough and strong I come off through my writing and Facebook posting, the reality is I’m reeling, still trying to recover from a significant ministry relationship breakup that went down a couple months ago. I felt so traumatized and violated. Add a sprinkling of Facebook encounters with people popping up like ghosts from that past life, never having a word to say to us for years when we most needed it but feeling justified to come out of the shadows to criticize over doctrinal issues and…yeah…I’m at a complete loss. I just don’t know what to say or do with people who actually know me who think my honest expressions of what I see, what I experience, what I believe are a threat to be eliminated.

I think this utter done-ness is very good. It didn’t happen in a way I ever would have chosen and if I’d seen coming would have ran screaming the other direction…but I have lived through it. I have tasted, I have touched, I have seen and I have heard and I will never be the same and I can never go back. The thought of doing so is less appealing to me than a dog licking up its own vomit.

I’d been hanging on to that old life by the barest of threads for a long time, thinking surely something could be salvageable. But I’m coming to the realization that the path forward into abundant life requires a complete letting go of everything that fears and seeks to kill something so precious as Liberty Grace. 

Sometimes the most graceful thing you can do is use your freedom to walk away and say…

I’m a Christian…No Buts

I am a Christian.

This isn’t news to anyone who knows me, even marginally. I’m not at all shy about it. Everything I write and share is filtered through this core identity.

If you’ve known me for any length of time, you’ve probably noticed I’ve experienced a bit of an identity crisis in the last few years, wrestling with what it means to be Christian. Here’s what I’m finding on the other side after being pulled through one heck of a major life wall.

JUST THE FACTS MA’AM

The entire reason for my faith is centered on a man who lived over 2000 years ago; born a refugee, raised in a backwater Middle Eastern hamlet. His entire short life was contained within a tiny geographic radius. He never wrote anything to survive in posterity. By every historical definition of power and influence, Jesus’ life is a microscopic blip on the radar. The only reason we’ve heard about him at all is from stuff others wrote from their individual perspectives and agendas.

And that stuff they wrote? Not a single original autograph exists of any book of the bible. Nada. Zilch.

I don’t think the red letters copied and translated over decades before solidifying as the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are Jesus’ words verbatim. The Gospels themselves contain conflicting accounts, and it makes perfect sense to me that they do.

Ever play telephone? I don’t think any of the accounts of events are historically accurate nor were they ever meant to be. Call me weird or a heretic (or a weird heretic) but I find the reality of the human limitations of scripture to be comforting and faith-confirming. It was all written and passed along and manipulated by folks just like you and me. As a writer myself, I revere and cherish the bible for exactly what it is, now more than ever, as I’ve had the courage to reject some very damaging, historically recent church teachings based on what it is not...and cannot be.

PAUL IS MY BOO

The apostles? I trust them. God, I love Paul’s letters especially. What a treasure trove of snap shots of the hardships of early church planting and ministry. He is an open book of contradictions and complexity. We get to see his harshness in frustration as well as unbounded joy and great tenderness, epic failures and miraculous successes; his obvious brilliance contrasted with self-admitted woeful ignorance, arrogance and inadequacy. I love and revere Paul in all his humanness. He has filled the void left by my contemporaries as a pastor and mentor for me these last 5 years. His instructions in the 4th chapter of I Timothy have been particularly intimately, personally encouraging.

But Paul never wrote to me. He wrote as himself from his experience and understanding to his contemporaries; to Timothy, to specific churches of specific people with a specific agenda. Believing Jesus’ return was imminent, he had no way to fathom that his letters would survive thousands of years to be cannonized as scripture. I personally think he would be mortified to see how we’ve taken his words out of context and turned them into unquestionable doctrines that we’ve used to justify all manner of exclusion and persecution. And he most likely wouldn’t be shy about expressing his displeasure in unsavory terms. I mean the guy talked about genital mutilation, dirty menstrual rags, and coming at his wayward congregations with whips to get his point across. Yeah, Paul is my badass Boo.

MY GOD IS FINALLY ENOUGH

Probably the most significant transformation in my understanding is that my view of God is finally big enough and small enough now that I’m a Cage-Free Christian.

My view of God is big enough to handle a universe and earth many billions of years in the making. My view of God is big enough to handle humans having been in existence for hundreds of thousands of years. My view of God is small enough to believe that They (yes “They” – future blog on that later) are the divine breath of life being revealed in the impossibly complex mess of animated dust and meat that is me.

MY JESUS IS ENOUGH TO COVER EVERYTHING IN EVERY DIRECTION 

I am a Christian. My view of God is centered on my understanding of Jesus. To me, Jesus is Emanuel – God with Us. Jesus is the ultimate atonement through which humans are reconciled to God.

I am a Christian. I do not believe any doctrine can begin to explain how that atonement works or to define the parameters of God’s grace. I believe any attempt to do so is tragically destructive and counter-productive to the Gospel – The Good News that God does not hold our sins against us, that we are ultimately and completely loved and accepted. All of us. The Great I AM declares YOU ARE in Their image.

I am a Christian. My only agenda is to love in the same way Jesus loves – without condition, without limitation, without personal expectation.

I am a Christian. I recognize the reality of this Love everywhere, with or without any culturally-approved label of “God” attached to it.

I am a Christian. I have no interest whatsoever in recruiting converts. I am, however, solidly committed to training disciples/followers of Jesus. I’ll pour out all that I am, all that I’ve experienced into absolutely anyone who can see and embrace this mystery and is willing.

Yes, I AM a Christian

Dropping Keys for the Beautiful Rowdy Prisoners

Hello, and welcome to the very first installment of Cage-Free Christian!

aIf you’ve followed me over from The Gospel of Snark, a double welcome and thank you! That anyone reads anything I blog barf is astounding to me. I originally began blogging strictly as personal therapy, having been plunged into an emotional/spiritual undoing that stripped 40+ years worth of everything I thought I knew down to a bare foundation.

In many ways the GOS was a documentary of the death of me…and it wasn’t pretty or sanitized or safe. I let you see it all.  Raw vulnerability is a piercing sword that divides and disrupts. My story was simultaneously the stench of fear and doom to some and a sweet aroma of life and freedom for others.

Just like my parable-preaching Jesus, I luvs me some word picture metaphor. The metaphor theme for Cage-Free Christian comes from a decidedly un-Christian source – the 14th century Persian poet Hafez, who, according to the ever-trustworthy Wikipedia, “lauded the joys of love and wine but also targeted religious hypocrisy.” My kinda guy.

The small man builds cages for everyone he knows

While the sage, who has to duck his head when the moon is low

Keeps dropping keys all night long for the

Beautiful

Rowdy

Prisoners

cf0f8-heartThe cage in which I was born and raised has been institutionalized church culture; not the institution itself or any individual persons, but the enforcement of the idea that God Himself can be explained and understood and caged within the “right” human traditions and doctrines. Those keys might very well have been genuine implements of freedom and revolution in certain points of history and revelation, but we have a way of turning them into museum display pieces to be revered, not used for their purpose in opening doors to get us moving out and onward in step and in intimate communion with whatever God there is and Their workings in the world.

There will always be misguided museum curators/gatekeepers/jailers who honestly believe their service to God is to protect specific “right” keys for display purposes only, never to be handled by individuals or god forbid used  to see if in reality they actually fit. Because the concept of God lives exclusively within a particular cage of understanding and tradition, everything on the outside is suspect – dangerous – a threat to caged certainty. Anyone who dares request access to the keys or so much as presses up against the bars to view what lies outside will be harshly shamed and knuckle slapped back into submission. keys

We’re all born into cages of cultural “right” thinking and behaving, not all of them religious. Some of us escape from one only to be recruited into another advertising as the keeper of absolute rightness. There are many who are quite content there, or at least completely sold on the age-old notion that the highest calling in life is to be an aggressive defender of your cage.

But there are a few who are uneasy in their discontent, even a little rowdy, constantly sneaking glimpses of the outside with a secret longing. Those are my Peeps.

Alone-Boy-Sad-Girl-Sitting-In-Farm-HD-Desktop-WallpapersMy transition from beautiful rowdy prisoner to free-roaming sage was wild and messy. It was noisy. It was awkward. I lived through my greatest fear in standing up to and tussling with the gatekeepers (something I’d desperately avoided my entire life). I was left wounded, angry and depleted. New life outside the cage, completely on my own and away from everything I’d ever known and depended on, was even harder. I sat paralyzed just outside the door of my lifelong prison for a long time, afraid to move…not having any clue what to do next or where to go.

Then came the sages – beautiful, strong, free, healers who bore the exact same scars as me. Those scars from which they so generously led and taught were road maps of trails they’d blazed and traveling tips and encouragement. They showed me that I myself had keys that fit, keys that work, keys that unlock various doors to freedom that are formed within those very wounds of experience and struggle.

As I began to work out my feeble legs and explore farther out from the cage, I found traveling companions and fellow former rowdy prisoners walking the same roads. We’re having an absolute blast together and are always on the lookout for whoever can and will to join us as we run and jump and roam, taste, see and smell – experience abundant life and freedom and love – the reality outside the cage.

kids-playing-1

I decided it was time for a fundamental shift in focus when I realized I was truly free from all cages and the influence of gatekeepers. Cage-Free Christian is my life after death and resurrection. I’m sure you still recognize my voice, my sarcasm and dry humor. I’m still me, but my purpose in speaking has changed. I’m no longer fighting to break out. I’m certainly not trying to replace one cage of definitive understanding for another.

Dancing-in-the-NightI lived my great escape out loud and I’m dancing free out in the open like a total dork if you care to look. I’m not confronting any gatekeepers or trying to destroy cages, but I will continue to visit the ones with which I am all too familiar to drop keys all night long for the beautiful rowdy prisoners who somehow instinctively know  the cage is not life, the cage is not God.

The lock turns from the inside, Peeps. It’s up to you. Me and a host of other sages are waiting just outside for you to join us. I’m particularly skilled at helping those who need a lot of time and encouragement to figure out how to take those first few tentative steps out into the open. I was just there and know exactly how hard it is. I’d love nothing more than to train and walk with you on those first trails of freedom and discovery.

There’s nowhere you can escape from the love of God. It’s there in the cage of certainty too. But I gotta tell ya, Jesus is moving and roaming everywhere outside. You really should come see for yourself and hit some trails with us.

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