To Vato With Love

Bros and Biddies, Hombres y Mujeres – VATO – why so goddamn afraid of my voice…OUR voice, THEIR voice? Is it because you fear, now that we are finally armed with knowledge and power, we will do to you what you have done to us? Relax, Vato. Calm down. How is it after all this time you still do not know who I AM?

————————————————————————————-

–When someone says, “We’re saying the same thing.”
Say, “We are not saying the same thing.”

–When someone says, “Don’t question, just have faith.”
Say, “I am questioning, vato, and I have supreme faith in what I think.”

–When someone says, “Don’t defy my authority.”
Say, “There is a higher authority that I follow.”

–When someone says, “Your ideas are seductive.”
Say, “No, my ideas are not seductive, they are substantial.”

–When someone says, “Your ideas are dangerous.”
Say, “Yes, my ideas are dangerous, and why are you so afraid hombre o mujer? ”

–When it is said, “It’s just not done.”
Say, “It will be done.”

–When it is said, “It is immature.”
Say, “All life begins small and must be allowed to grow.”

–When it is said, “It’s not thought out.”
Say, “It is well thought out.”

–When they say, “You’re over-reacting.”
Say, “You’re under-reacting, vato.”

–When they say, “You’re being emotional.”
Say, “Of course I have well placed emotions, and by the way, what happened to yours?”

–When they say, “You’re not making any sense.”
Say, “I don’t make sense, I am the sense.”

–When they say, “I can’t understand you when you’re crying.”
Say, “Make no mistake, I can weep and be fierce at the same time.”

–When they say, “I cant understand you when you’re being so angry.”
Say. “You couldn’t hear me when I was being nice, or sweet or silent, either.”

–When someone says, “You’re missing the point.”
Say, “I’m not missing the point, but you seem to be missing my point — What are you so afraid of?”

–When someone says, “You are breaking the rules.”
Say, “Yes, I am breaking the rules.”

–When someone says, “That’s not practical.”
Say, “It’s practically a done deal, thank you very much.”

–When it is said, “No one will do it, believe you, or follow it.”
Say, “I will do it, I will believe in it, and in time, the world may well follow it.”

— When it is said, “No one wants to listen to that.”
Say, “I know you have a hard time listening to that.”

–When it is said, “It’s a closed system, you cant change it.”

Say, “I’m going to knock twice and if there is no answer, then I am going to blow the doors off that system and it will change.”

–When it is said, “They’ll ignore you.”
Say, “They won’t ignore me and the hundreds of thousands who stand with me.”

–When they say, “It’s already been done.”
Say, “It’s not been done well enough.”

— When they say, “It’s not yet time.”
Say, “It’s way past time.”

–When they say, “It’s not the right day, right month, right year.”
Tell them, “The right year was last year, and the right month was last month, and the right day was yesterday, and you’re running behind schedule, vato, and what in the name of God and all that is holy are you going to do about it?”

–When they say, “Who do you think you are?” —
tell them …tell them who you are, and don’t hold back.

–When they say, “I put up with it, you’ll have to put up with it too.”
Say, “No, no, no, no.”

–When they say, “I’ve suffered a long time and you’ll have to suffer too.”
Say, “No, no, no, no.”

–When they say, “You’re an incorrigible, defiant, hard to get along with, unreasonable woman … ”

Say, “Yes, yes, yes, yes …and I have worse news for you yet–we are teaching our daughters, and our mothers, and our sisters…we are teaching our sons, and our fathers, and our brothers,

to be
just
like
us.

Go and do likewise in your own ways dear brave souls: Tribe of the Sacred Heart, many of us Scar Clan.

With deepest love for your soul who knows the way… has always known the way… Now is the time for deep prayer and effective actions…

Creator bless all the children who stand for us all, all the older people who stand for all the children, for everyone of learning heart and truth-seeking mind.

– Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Living Above the Curse (Original Sin)

If you are reading this you are obviously human, and as such, dear human, I have some wonderful horrible news for you – You are cursed.

The wonderful part is that none are alone in our cursedness, and through this universal suffering we are connected to all humanity in all space and time. Our curses are inherent in biology, psychology and personal experience. There is nothing new under the sun.

There are many flavors and degrees, but the truth of being human remains – we all come into this world stocked with a unique set of genetic and family-of-origin dysfunctions that constantly entice us away from loving ourselves and therefore each other.

As I said before, I’ve read and understood the bible for myself since early childhood. I’m going to unpack symbolism from the Genesis account of the creation and The Fall of Man that I’ve seen for a very long time as well as things I’m just now understanding that have great personal significance.

Here’s the base of where I’m coming from:

  1. I don’t take the Genesis account literally. To do so would be the height of ridiculous willful ignorance and to dismiss the inherent sacred metaphor that holds all value in the text. If you really want to argue the reality of a talking snake and that all of us originate from 2 humans poofed into existence a few thousand years ago, much less believe in a “loving” God who would condemn all humanity to suffering and death because the original duo added some enticing forbidden fiber to their diet…*SIGH*…I just can’t even anymore.
  2. The Ancients knew what was up and wrote what is almost certainly a version of an even more ancient oral tradition creation myth containing a stunningly rich take on what it is to be and relate as Women and Men.
  3. The survival instinct is inherent in our biology and psychology as human animals. We’re wired to exploit others to get what we want (food, sex, protection, power). I personally believe that to rise above our animal nature (curses) in order to love ourselves and each other is what it means to be uniquely made in the image of and to commune with and incarnate Whatever God There Is.
  4. Gender, sexuality, and personality are fluid and on a vast spectrum, and you and I and all of humanity that has ever existed fall in unique places all along it. It’s an objective fact of nature. For the purposes of this particular blog post, I’m speaking from my own perspective as a heterosexual cisgender woman relating to heterosexual cisgender man (look it up if you are unfamiliar with any of those terms). But we each have both male and female energy/hormones flowing through us, and despite the strict binary we’ve been taught exists (but absolutely doesn’t), the biological and psychological manifestations of gender are WILDLY varied. I encourage anyone solidly identifying as Man to get in touch with their inner Woman (She’s there, and to deny Her is to everyone’s detriment). Same goes for Women. It is only to our benefit and that of our families to identify and relate to the masculine nature that inhabits us all. We are One.

Here’s the bible study I was never going to get in my former tribe that I’ve had a hankering to do for a very long time –

It Is Not Good For Man to Be Alone – Creation of Woman

But for Adam no suitable *MATE WITH STRENGTH TO SAVE HIM* was found. 21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs[g] and then closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib[h] he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

23 The man said,

“This is now bone of my bones
    and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
    for she was taken out of man.”

24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

25 Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

Take away points:
  1. * The Hebrew word “Ezer” that Western self-proclaimed Bros of God translated and adapted to fit their own purposes as “helpmate” is the word used throughout the Old Testament for God coming to the rescue and saving His people. This Woman – Ezer – is uniquely endowed with a divine strength and drive to endure incredible extremes to protect and nurture (save) her Family. God declared it was not good for Man to be alone, and Ezer was the suitable mate, the final crowning act of creation, after which God declared it all to be very Good.
  2. Man was God-breathed from dirt. Woman came from FLESH. How much of Man’s psyche and drive is about satisfying his own flesh by seeking FLESH outside himself? How connected to the care and maintenance of FLESH (her own, her children’s and her mate) is a Woman? All FLESH is perpetually created and comes forth from Woman. Marinate on those gender differences in relation to FLESH for a while.
  3. In the original unadulterated (un-cursed) union of Man and Woman THERE IS NO SHAME and they are ONE flesh united.

Jesus would later be attributed to saying, “Therefore, what God has joined together, let no man separate.” I take great issue with how my evangelical tribe has twisted this to mean divorce is a sin over which God is most pissed. Jesus simply stated the reality of natural consequences – violating and splitting the sacred Oneness results in SELF-imposed isolation from each other and God, and it is devastating. That is what shame IS. We humans do it to ourselves, and because we’re wired to intimately bond, everyone suffers from the betrayal and rejection of love and connection. Jesus made it clear – we have a choice. We always have a choice to maintain the connections of love over our own self-imposed and inflicted isolated shame. There is no shame or condemnation in Whatever God There Is that Jesus was talking about. Shame and disconnection is all man-made. WE have to sever the bonds of the reality of love and walk away into selfish delusion. WE have to refuse and deny reconciliation and the redemption of love. There is an ever-present Great Deceiver and Accuser within ourselves, determined to undermine reality and convince us to trade the truth for a lie – to abandon love and connection and embrace shame and isolation and entitlement to self gratification at the expense of others.

In order to sabotage the Oneness of God/Man/Woman, why did the Snake target and appeal to the mind of Eve rather than Adam (who was right there with her)? Patriarchal religious tradition has maintained it is because of Woman’s inherent weakness and depravity, to which I call epic bullshit. She was targeted because of her strength and power, and the Deceiver knew exactly who it had to undermine and get through first. There are few things as formidable and fierce as an awake and aware Woman embracing her identity as Ezer; therefore, to deceive and numb Her instincts first (and to keep her that way) is imperative. The Deceiver/Accuser/Snake knew exactly what it was doing.

Bada bing, bada boom, the humans partook of the one thing they don’t have the capacity to handle yet are irresistibly drawn to in an attempt to achieve equality with God – the knowledge and power to judge good and evil themselves. Gender-specific curses ensued and the Sacred Oneness fractured for the now shame-filled Woman and Man.

A Woman’s Curse

14 So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,

“Cursed are you above all livestock
    and all wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
    and you will eat dust
    all the days of your life.

And I will put enmity

    between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring[a] and hers;
he will crush[b] your head,
    and you will strike his heel.”

16 To the woman he said,

“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
    with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
    and he will rule over you.”

Goddammit, a woman can’t even go to the bathroom herself much less be left alone to her own curse. She doesn’t even have the luxury of dealing with just one either. Hers are MULTIPLE and connected to everyone else’s – the snake, her children, and her husband – through her flesh.

Of course Woman herself ain’t above lying and manipulating, but have you noticed how severe a reaction you typically get from a woman who’s been betrayed and lied to? “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” an English Bro Dude poet once observed. It’s because you don’t just lie to and betray HER. You threaten EVERYTHING SHE’S CONNECTED TO.

This is a 3-part series, the second dedicated specifically to the female curse of Desire that entices Woman to hand over and deny her power and strength to be ruled over and used by Man. The final installment focuses on the brutally heavy Curse of Man that crushes the ego and the resultant toxic fallout. Both are in the context of my own marriage and are intensely personal.

I share out of my experience as a human. I share out of my experience as a Woman. I share to work out and untangle and make sense of life. I share knowing full well it is way too much and never enough and there is no shortage of people ready to tell me just how far off their mark I am at all times, and this is exceedingly valuable. I share because vulnerability does not allow me the delusion of an achievable “rightness” of thought or action one can own or impose, which is the essence of that Original Sin; making criticism, no matter how well or poorly intentioned and executed, crucial in the untangling process as I muster up the discipline to tamper down my pride to embrace the discomfort. I share because within that mess of working it out I find deeply fulfilling points of connection with others and restoration to the Great Truth of love. I share in order to identify and purge the lies and shame within myself that sabotage love and connection. I share in order to forgive myself and others. I share for anyone to take or leave whatever they can or will using whatever labels work.

Whichever labels you feel most comfortable using and wherever you fall on the sacred spectrum of humanity, thank you for sharing your time and care to read this and connect with me.

The Last Pillar Has Fallen

Hello, my name is Jennifer and I’m a ridiculously fearful avoidant personality in love with an absurdly dismissive avoidant personality. Together we are a textbook perfect psychological shit storm.

For me to finally understand exactly how fucked up we are and in what ways is, quite frankly, a massive relief. Every single pillar of certainty that I’d been led to believe was unassailable has toppled in recent years. Throughout this process, I’ve been clinging to what I considered to be the central pillar, convinced it was the one that would never, could never, should never fail. Then it too began to crack and pitch and I could no longer depend on it for safety and comfort.

And that’s the sickest/saddest part about the whole thing- it had never provided me the stability and protection I’ve always craved. No, this “central” pillar never stood still. It was perpetually restless and roaming, resistant to anything and everything that sought its support. Yet I’d been conditioned to believe that it must be that for me and had convinced myself that the reason it wasn’t was entirely my responsibility. If I threw every bit of myself into “supporting” this pillar, i.e. clutching ever tighter as it jumped and swayed precariously, feverishly patching cracks to keep up appearances (we’re good…we’re solid…we’re fine), it would eventually be still and strong and a source of stability and safety around which the rest of my life could nobly function.

It’s actually quite the comical visual. Everything else in my world had long ago disintegrated into rubble and ashes, yet here I was still insisting it was right and good to chain myself to the remaining wobbly and wild pillar that wasn’t even holding anything up and was aggressively trying to shake me off for my own good as it approached terminal collapse.

Up until 3 days ago, choking on spite in spite of what seemed like the never-going-to-end 9.0 temblor that had disintegrated everything I thought should be but never really was, this remained my unshakable belief –

If this one falls, I will die. If this one goes, I’m an ultimate failure. If this one crumbles, I’m the biggest shameful idiot there ever was.

I would not allow myself to let go until the shaking stopped. My God, my God…please MAKE IT STOP! I’m so exhausted and spent and empty…make it stop…make it stop…make it stop…

Then let go, you dear delusional girl. LET GO of the thing that is shaking so violently and let it crumble. You won’t die if you let go…but you surely will if you keep trying to hold it together. Let go, Love. Let go. Let everything die so that you can finally live. 

And I did…right there standing in front of the kitchen sink doing the dishes. I saw it. I understood fully and gave myself permission to do what up until that very second had been unthinkable – give up on my marriage, my idea of what this thing is supposed to be and let it collapse all the way.

The crushing, debilitating panic instantly vaporized. There was no crash, no boom, no implosion, only instant relief and supreme stillness. In that divine stillness such fullness, warmth, nurturing and belonging.

Oh heeeeeey, there They are, Whatever God There Is, or rather – there I AM. Then it began bubbling out of me. A wide, wild grin took over my face followed by unconstrained giggling before finally erupting into deep, somewhat maniacal laughter. I’d imagine it’s the same euphoria one would feel upon realizing they and their loved ones were alive and safe after a disaster, even if they’d lost everything else to it.

And that’s where I am. It’s all gone. All done. Everything, and I do mean everything, that was but actually wasn’t, is rubble. It’s sunrise and I’m getting my first look at the scene after the quake storm (as my oldest Big used to call it when she was little) and I’m happy. Giddy, in fact. I’m in no hurry to clean up or rebuild. I can’t even think about that right now or what it might look like. All I know is that I don’t need to know anything and the future doesn’t have to be any certain way. There is no should be or should have been. There are no supposed to be’s. 

Will a couple of middle-aged, highly avoidant personalities find a new way of being together now that everything has fallen apart? Yes…they will…in some capacity, but I no longer have any expectation for what that must look like nor sense of obligation that I should. Whether what is to be exceeds my wildest dreams of fulfillment or is something wholly undesirable that I never imagined for myself or my family (reality is certain to be somewhere on the spectrum in between)…I AM going to be OK.

There only IS what is, and right now is sacred and pure and I’m not about to rush through this gift of serenity and stillness in the aftermath of the Great Reduction. I’m going to rest here, just me and Whatever God There Is, who have always manifested Themself to me in reality, and find the comfort and security I crave with Them as I laugh/cry in unhinged relief as the encroaching light incrementally reveals all that is now after the shaking. I’m alive, goddammit. I’m alive…and for the first time in my life not lonely and afraid.

Oh, there I am. You lovely, demented girl. Take a beat and then let’s get to work building up YOU – the central pillar – strong and true. Who knows what beauty these hands are capable of creating with what IS now that they’ve finally released their death grip on what never was.

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.

Talk To Me – A Book Review (and personal mantra)

As an introvert, the advent of social media has been huge for me, Facebook and blogging in particular. It’s where I’ve found my voice and strength, before which I was clueless that I possessed either. It’s also where I’ve found the best and most fulfilling social/spiritual connections.

Over the last 5 years, while my local church relationships have withered and died to almost nothing, my e-relationships have blossomed into a lush and vibrant garden where I thoroughly enjoy spending most of my time and energy tending to the souls of myself and others.

I recently had the opportunity to step out of the safety of my e-world to have coffee and a face-to-face chat with the one and only person on staff from Big Church willing to talk to me. Every other pastor and board member has long since chosen denial and silence after displaying severe and aggressive aversion to anything resembling humble and honest dialog.  But not Kristi.

She and I had never been friends in our years spent working in Big Church, which I regret quite a bit now having had the opportunity to finally see and hear and connect with one another just as I’m turning the last page on our life in Church World.  We spent a few very healing hours together simply being who we are and allowing each other the freedom to be honest about our experiences, struggles, dreams and aspirations. It was within that context that I managed to verbalize why I felt I had no choice but to fully disassociate from evangelical Christian doctrine and tradition.

I was experiencing the love of God and the freedom and encouragement to love my neighbor and myself everywhere BUT within this tribe, even as it aggressively insisted IT had the exclusive handle on God and all others were heretics and sinners – the “lost.”

It has been Mother Church itself that has insisted on persecuting and shunning those who actually attempt to live out what Jesus declared to be the greatest commandment that sums up the entirety of the law and the prophets, yet I see that law of love on full display in relationship with my LGBT (among whom are some of the best Christians I know), atheist, agnostic, Jewish, and Muslim friends. I have an intense desire to add even more diverse relationships to that list, but I’ve come to the realization that this is something Church World will never ever allow me to do.  So I’m officially and permanently severing those oppressive ties that bind in order to be free to go where the love is, wherever it is found.

FOUND IT, YA’LL!!

I spend a great deal of effort trying to keep my head above the putrid toxicity of political/religious rants and absurdly ignorant and arrogant memes that is often my Facebook newsfeed. With practice (and a great deal of epic failure), I’ve gotten a lot better at saying what I feel needs to be said with clarity and kindness. As a result, I’m instantly drawn like flies on poo to people I recognize are doing the exact same.

Qasim Rashid, an Ahmadi Muslim, is one such insta-beacon of light piercing the darkness of vitriolic dogma and hatred. I started following him on Facebook a couple months ago and was delighted and encouraged when my newsfeed started filling up with these gems –

  • Love for all, hatred for none.
  • Freedom of conscience for all people regardless of faith.
  • All people, regardless of gender, ethnicity, or background, are children of God and all humanity should be cherished, nurtured, and elevated.
  • Recognizing the dire need for (and tragic scarcity of) humble servant leadership.
  • Crucial investment in support and education of children and protection of the oppressed.
  • Taking time to reflect on and learn from our past, especially our failures.
  • The importance of honest, respectful dialog and the sharing of our stories.

So when Qasim put out the call for bloggers interested in reviewing his new book Talk To Me; Changing the Narrative on Race, Religion, and Education, I jumped at the opportunity.

This book was entirely my jam because it consists of personal stories; about a third of them Qasim’s and the remainder from dozens of his friends and colleagues representing a veritable smorgasbord of religious and cultural backgrounds. I’ve always maintained that a personal story will eat doctrine and dogma for breakfast 100% of the time.

My absolute favorite example of this is from the Gospel of John where the religious leaders (the gatekeepers and witch hunters) interrogated the blind man Jesus had healed on the Sabbath. Rather than celebrating and marveling with a man blind since birth now blessed with sight, they ridiculously obsessed over Jesus’ heresy and “wrongness” of religion, picking apart every aspect of the miraculously healed man’s story until he blurted out, “Listen guys, I don’t know what to tell ya about this Jesus guy except once I was blind but now I see.”

I’d have to say I found the chapter of Qasim’s book written by an atheist advocating for the humanization of nonbelievers and the religious alike to be where all the narratives came together for me. I don’t care if someone credits Jesus (as I do), the Quran and the prophet Muhammad, Hinduism, Buddhism, humanism, any combination of or absolutely NO isms for their enlightenment. If the end result of any “ism” is the belief that the best we can do in this life is to do for others what we want for ourselves – THAT person shares my religion. THAT person is not only my brother/sister/mother/father, but THAT person is my partner and friend and someone I want to shoulder up with to move mountains (or at least a few piles of dirt) in whatever time I have left on this earth until I return back to it.

In an effort to move a tiny parcel of dirt, I’m asking each of my literally dozens of faithful readers to head on over to Amazon and buy a copy of Qasim’s book here  – Talk To Me; Changing the Narrative of Race, Religion and Education (and then read it, of course). Also please do me the favor of sharing this blog post on Facebook (sharing any of my blogs is like validation crack) and then do yourself a favor and follow Qasim on Facebook and Twitter @MuslimIQ.

Peeps of all persuasions, above all, whatever you do (or don’t do) double check your motivation and make sure it is love – never fear. That is the essence of our connection with each other and to whatever God there is.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love… No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. – I John 4

The Practice of Encountering Others

“We have just enough religion to make us hate one another” Jonathan Swift once observed, “but not enough to make us love one another.” Because we are human, which is to say essentially self-interested, we are always looking for ways to add a little more authority to our causes, to come up with better reasons to fight for what we want than “Because I want it, that’s why.” If we can convince ourselves that God wants it too–even if that means making God in our own image so we can deny the image of God in our enemies–then we are free to engage in combative piety. We are free to harm others not for our own reasons but in the name of God, which allows us to feel holy about doing it instead of just plain bad.

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What we have most in common is not religion but humanity. I learned this from my religion, which also teaches me that encountering another human being is as close to God as I may ever get–in the eye-to-eye thing, the person-to-person thing–which is where God’s Beloved has promised to show up. Paradoxically, the point is not to see him. The point is to see the person standing right in front of me, who has no substitute, who can never be replaced, whose heart holds things for which there is no language, whose life is an unsolved mystery. The moment I turn that person into a character in my own story, the encounter is over. I have stopped being a human being and have become a fiction writer instead.

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Excerpts from An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor

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…