morality police, looks like you’ve just been FIRED!

In light of 2 very recent decisions concerning “morality” within the United States, I decided to chime in.

First, I want to know:  Who made it the church’s job to tell the rest of the world, i.e. – those who are not part of the church – how to live their lives?  When did that become our responsibility?  Well, permit me to point out the obvious answer and say, ummmm… Never, as in, Not Ever!  Our first and truly our only responsibility as the church is to love one another as Christ has loved us.  Love is the commandment Jesus gave to us, and love perfectly sums up all of the commandments that were ever given by God.

Beyond that, Jesus also admonished His followers to preach the gospel.  This seems to be where confusion crept in as there are now many varying opinions on what the gospel actually is.  To some, it is this complicated thing that’s hard to grasp, hard to understand with all these hoops to jump through, and myriads of rules and regulations to keep track of – oh, and also this platform in which to command the rest of the world at large what to be and how to live.  THIS so-called gospel begets oodles and oodles of entitlement in the minds of its believers which allows a great many factions to dictate to the rest of the world what is and is not appropriate, what can and cannot be done.

But to hear Jesus tell it, we are simply to announce that He died, and now He lives!  Some will believe this.  Some will not.  Those who believe will respond to His love and receive Him and all of the joy and peace that He came to give.  Those who do not believe will have what they have.

The gospel that I have believed is so simple a little child can understand.  If I am to be effective as a minister of the gospel then it behooves me to receive it and then convey it as a little child: in the purity of its simplicity and grace.  This is the gospel that the Jesus that I came to know and love preached.  I don’t know who this other cat is that people are calling Jesus, this angry dude, who’s all mad about this sin and that sin, and who has his panties all in a bunch about this and that shade of immorality, and who calls everybody and their brother a sinner, saying, “It’s my way or you’re on your way hell, you ugly mo-fos!”  Whoever that dude is trying to pass himself off as Jesus, the real deal, I just see as some laughable chump who is nothing more than the embodiment of total absurdity and insanity.  Whoever or whatever that dude is, it’s certainly not the Jesus I came to know and believe.

Love.  That’s who Jesus is and what He came to reveal, and it’s all that caused Him to bleed and die for broken humanity.  Love changes the way we see things.  Love so peacefully and gracefully causes the crooked places to be made straight and the rough places to be made smooth in every life Love touches.  I don’t have to tell people what to think, and how to behave, and how live their lives.  That’s not my job as a believer in Jesus Christ!(!!)  All I have to do is look at how Jesus, my Love, behaves and let that same love live and move in me and be that dear little child that the simplicity of the gospel has fashioned me to be.

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D’oh!

I have often wondered if the very act of organizing after God has just come and disrupted and disorganized everything to put things into their proper perspective has been at the very apex of every separation of a people from the move of God.  I don’t believe God ever stops moving, and I don’t believe that He (and I feel the need to distinguish here that whenever I say He, I believe that God is both male and female equally – and NOT male and female equally) ever stops asking us if we’ll move with Him.

I see denominational markers as markers where people put down stakes –  like the children of Israel in the desert after their exodus from Egypt – except in our case here in modern history in the making, when God said to pull up the stakes and move on, we got so busy with forming our committees and organizing our teams, and training people to head up our groups, and seeing about the building and/or remodeling of our buildings that we didn’t even notice that God had spoken – much less that He’d long since moved on.  And now I see it with non-denominational markers.

And so it makes me wonder: Does the very act of organizing just cause God to yawn and quietly walk away (and I see John and Peter with Jesus at the transfiguration saying, “Let us build a monument to what has happened here” only now I see Jesus just saying, “Bored” and quietly slipping out without anybody’s notice)?

So, the challenge for us in these modern organizational times is perhaps this:  How do we keep up with God in His moving and keep everybody together?  Oh, wait.  Isn’t that why He sent us Holy Spirit?  So we don’t have to worry about how to do it?  Ohhhhhhh….!

OOPS!!!

things that make ya go, hmmm…

After writing yesterday’s post, I went out to work in the yard and had a good, long cry.  I hadn’t really reached a place of being able to do that yet until after getting that stuff “out there.”  I’d been too riddled with guilt and condemnation, really, to get there.  I don’t know how long I cried because I was out in the yard with no watch, but it was a while.  After the cry, I was able to go on about my work.  Then later I went to a nearby creek, and the tears came again – the kind of crying where it feels as though your lungs and heart are about to be crushed by the weight of your heaving chest, where you almost can’t get your breath.  I did a lot of talking to the Lord through all those tears, and among the things I said were these words: ‘Lord, I’ve been hurting for SO LONG!’  It was just a cry of desperation for there to be some respite come from uttering those words, you know?

Yesterday’s post probably will not make sense to a lot of people, and to others it will resonate clearly.  And even though it seemed I was having a conversation with my phantom past perpetrators, it really was not about them so much.  Really, it was about me.  It was about letting go of the fear, the intimidation, the perpetual jumping through the never-ending hoops with all of my might only to feel as though I was still found wanting at the end of the line…and so many more things that would take too many pages to write.

I could tell in that second wailing session at the creek yesterday when a release had come and could feel the grieving session winding down.  And the strangest thing came to me.  Suddenly, I found myself really wanting to say these words to the Lord – and it sounded crazy to me at the time, and I prefaced it to God with just those words: ‘Lord, this makes absolutely no sense and sounds crazy, but I find myself wanting to tell You that I’m grateful for every wound, every blow.’  And I felt that.   And I meant it.  It came from such a deep place that I don’t even know how to even get to, and it was real and as true as anything I’ve ever experienced.  And even now I don’t know why I feel grateful, and it still seems nuts, completely bonkers, to my mind.  And I may not even know why I have this overwhelming sense of gratitude for it all until my spirit leaves this earthly body.  I may not ever understand it as long as I am walking around in this earthly form.  And I even have an unexplainable peace with that realization that I may never understand – which also boggles my mind.  It’s a peace from deep within that also envelopes me as if being wrapped in a warm, soft blanket at the same time – even today.

It will be interesting to see where this peace takes me next, that, as far as I know, can come from nowhere else but the Prince of Peace.  It’s something known without knowing how it’s known…you know?

escapism exodus

Now that I’ve written about some of my experiences and how I’m recovering from it all some things have come to light that were not apparent to me before.    I think one of the difficulties I had in the situation that wasn’t working for me is that there seemed to be need to have a hand in the outcome of things.  Real life just doesn’t always work that way, and we live in a real world with real things going on that we cannot escape.  In Charismania, I felt there was this almost frantic need for escapism, to circumvent the natural processes and order of things.  I don’t feel that is doing great exploits.  We like to get out of things that are unpleasant.  It is inherent to want to do so.  But to deny oneself of that impulse is to walk the path that Jesus walked.  He didn’t sidestep His own or other people’s pain.  He didn’t turn a blind eye and run to a cave to escape our tendency toward the insanity of doing the same stupid things over and over and over and being surprised that it didn’t bring different results.  He ate, drank, sat down with, and even slept in the same room with people just like me, just like all of us…people who didn’t seem to be good at much of anything but making poor choices on a daily basis.

The human condition is what it is, and Jesus accepted that.  Somewhere along the way we’ve gotten the idea that redemption means that when redemption becomes real to us, all of a sudden our propensities are to be something other than what we are.  We don’t automatically become angels.  And, in spite of what some have tried to convince me of, sometimes we still find ourselves attracted to the same things that were destroying us before we came to the cross.  And, guess what: it’s still something we have to contend with.  Perhaps YOU would strike us all down with lightning the first, the second, the third, fourth, and fifth time we slip into our old patterns, but I just don’t see GOD doing that!  Ananias and Sapphira me all day long, but I just don’t buy it that this is God’s routine.  Are you afraid to let people make their own mistakes?  I get that compulsion, but is that really trusting God?  God’s a fully realized, a fully grown, fully mature God.  He knew what he was getting Himself into when He called out to that guy who obsesses about pornography or who can’t walk by a bar without walking in.  What is going on in that person’s life is between him/her and God.  Coming in like the calvary, like a bull in a china cabinet is good for shock and shame, but it doesn’t circumvent the process that person must go through to learn to trust in God more than in that thing that’s got them bound.  You are not Holy Spirit junior.  There is but one Holy Spirit, and He is far more capable than He has been given credit for in making crooked places straight and rough places smooth – and He is not obligated to be on yours and my time schedule either!  He reserves the right to take as long as it must take for that person’s full realization of freedom to become apparent to all.  By trying to cut that process short, is the person you believe you are helping learning dependence on God or on you?

Selah.

i lived to tell the story

I’m going to go ahead and have a good, honest tell on myself on where my views have come from.  I’m not going to tell everything, but I am going to tell some.

I believe in church, and I believe in The Church, the one that Jesus ransomed with His blood and redeemed.  What I no longer believe in is a church that cares about appearances.  I don’t know when I got the secret memo that to be spiritual meant to deny what’s really going on, but since I was mostly involved with the who’s who in the Charismatic zoo, I got the download.  There were times…years, even…when I felt nothing but loss and felt as though life was little more than surviving from one tragic loss to another.  It seemed everything I did crumbled into dust and ashes, like I was raking dry cracked ground and getting nothing but dust.  I was raw with loss.  I was going into debt “giving” to church causes.

There was a time in my life when I lost my job and saw it as an opportunity to escape from the scene but made the mistake of running it by a major church leader who shot it down.  When I recognized that my being laid off was about nothing more than padding the pockets of the shareholders I was determined not to give another corporation that opportunity.  Since it was apparent I couldn’t leave without the ministry’s “blessing,” I did the 1960’s hippy thing and dropped out, not really knowing what else to do.  Dropping out meant that I went to college so that I could hone my writing skills and become a writer.  I realize now that my choice was unwise.  I worked, but sporadically.  I tried selling vintage clothing on eBay and nearly starved doing it.  I was living on donation bread, and my churchmates criticized me for getting too skinny.  I would burn with rage when they’d say something about it – as if I was trying to get skinnier.  Anyone who knew me would have known that I don’t have to try to be skinny.  In other words, one only needed to break bread with me to know that I was not one to starve myself on purpose.  I eat a certain way, and I have a certain metabolism, and I am not at all shy when it comes to eating.  Occasionally, I’d make a buck or two on eBay and be able to buy postage stamps and a Clif bar.  When the giving message got so “compelling,” having already put my tithe in the offering basket, and having spent the rest on the Clif bar, I would often respond to the “compelling” message on giving by putting my only bar in the offering basket.  Sometimes all I had to give was postage stamps, so I’d give that.  I’d already given family heirlooms.  And all for the sake of living a life of being compelled – compelled to what, now, I cannot even tell you.

I would bite my tongue when people would say, “You are getting too skinny” when what I wanted to say was, ‘Well, if you don’t like what you’re seeing then why don’t you feed my ass?’  The final straw was when one of the leaders made a jabbing remark from the pulpit about “some people” trying to starve themselves then shooting me a scolding look.  It took months for me to get over that one.  I have no idea why I didn’t leave then…I think it’s that f-em attitude I have when someone crosses me as if to drive me away.  I almost always say f-em and stay anyway…to my own detriment.

And, really, my first few years saved were years like that…years of loneliness and isolation, years of leanness of soul and of spirit and of the basic necessities.  I had accumulated so much unsecured debt trying to keep up with the “compelling” message to give – and keep up the appearance of being “blessed” that I somehow got the “download” that I must keep.

When my mom got sick and I could finally leave that barren place, I was grateful for a “legitimate” excuse – and, by then, I honestly didn’t care what “they” had to say about it, so I didn’t ask.  I just told them my mom was sick, and I was leaving.  I found a great church where my mom was living at the time, and I saw myself going in there as if on a stretcher and bloodied from the battlefield, only the blood was from friendly fire.  It was a chance to at least catch my breath from all the “compelling.”  No one was compelling me do anything there but be ministered to with love, and I really am not sure I’d have survived in this world much longer had the opportunity for just a break from it all not come.

Being in a situation like that is like being in a pool where everyone’s drowning yet everyone is afraid to cry out for the Lifeguard, so we all just stay there in a perpetual state of drowning.  You can’t even tell your closest friend you are drowning because you already know you would be scolded for being an “o, ye, of little – or even NO – faith.”

And, God is good.  He can keep a pool full of idiots from drowning, but He will not make anyone get out of the pool.  That, like stopping any destructive behavior, is something that a person must choose for himself or herself.

Trying to maintain something that is unreasonable to maintain is like any addiction.  And I am an addictive personality.  I was ripe and ready for that kind of scene.  I even told the person in charge of the ministry that being in his church was like being in an abusive relationship – and I had actually known quite a bit about that in my time.  I’ve never regretted saying it.  In fact, it wasn’t long after saying it that my chance of escape presented itself – and I dove for it, head first.  I’m sorry it meant that my mom had to get so sick, but you know?  She survived and is doing miraculously now, so…was it a God-thing?  Maybe.  I mean, I know God had nothing to do with her heart condition…no, that was years of 2-3 meals a day at Mexican food restaurants (because it was easier and cheaper than cooking where she was living at the time) and 2-3 boilermakers a day (a boilermaker is an alcoholic beverage consisting of beer with a shot of bourbon dropped in).  It was a heart attack cocktail.  But, like my not drowning in the pool, she too lived to tell of the goodness of God to keep her alive to figure it out.

All those years, even in the first church I was in, when I started sensing all this loss and deprivation and helplessness, I was looking to God like, ‘what the hell is this?’  I had absolutely no basis of experience to know what was happening to me.  I was new to being saved, and new to this wacky church stuff – and church stuff can get pretty wacky, believe me.

In the Charismatic zoo, I was led to believe that quiet denominational churches like the Presbyterians, the Methodists, Episcopalians, Lutherans were dead churches.  But I started travelling to see people and going with them to their “dead” churches and having powerful encounters with the Spirit of God.  It was shocking the first few times it happened.  Then I came to accept that God is not limited by what anyone says – not even the who’s who among the Charismatic zoo!  So I go to a “dead” church now and feel such an abundance of life each time I attend our once a week service (another thing Charismatic cowboys strongly condemn).  We’re in at 9:45, out by 11:00.  I was told for years that God could not move in such a short, predictable service.  If that’s true, then why is it that 21 years after giving my son up for adoption, and 19 years after getting corralled into being an exhibit at the Charismatic zoo, why is it my heart is finally starting to heal from it all?  Can you explain that to me?

I can’t either.  And I’ve no need to try.  I had begun to wonder if it was even possible for my heart to heal.  I mean, I was supposedly in some of the most powerful churches on the planet, where the power of God was present to heal absolutely every affliction – yet I did not get healed there.  Sorry, but I do know the difference between being healed and living with raw wounds.  I’m still healing.  It’s like there is a scar on the surface and deep wounding still underneath, but, hey!  I’ll take that!  I mean, before, all I knew was big open gaping wounds – that I’d learned to hide very well.  Just look back on that time in my life and call me an expert mask maker.

The mask is melting in love.  God is loving me through my rage, my indignation, through all the ripoff of all the years I gave to all that.  And He gave me faithful man who’s shown me more of Christ’s love than I might otherwise have known.  I could be wrong, but I have the feeling he wouldn’t have made the cut in the peer group where I was before.  He wouldn’t have used all the right language and jumped through all the hoops in just the right way – and I’ve come to adore him for that.  I’ve never felt more safe, more loved, more cared for – and more of the rest that God was talking about.  My soul is starting to learn how to be at rest, rest that God has me, that He’s taking care of me and loving me through all the hard stuff.  I wanted to give up on God too, but His persistent love pursued me and wouldn’t let me…and now I’m so glad!

I’ve a ways to go with fully healing from all the hell I’ve been through, and I accept that I may always have scars.  But, for the first time in my entire life, I’m starting to believe it’s possible to be whole.  That is worth more than words can say.

go ahead; give ’em two!

Matthew 5:41
King James Version (KJV)
41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.

tolerance_bue_and_white_bumper_sticker__70497

Tolerance.  This is what the world is asking of us.  This is what the world has been asking of us, for years.  And we have staunchly dug in our heals in defiance and refused to give them even an inch – much less the mile they’ve asked – and even much less the TWO MILES JESUS ASKED!  And now I ask us all to look and think very hard…

How has that been working out for us?  How many people have come to love Jesus as He has loved them who would otherwise have never known of His love for them?

Yeah.  That’s exactly what I thought.

Um…newsflash:  Churches are losing as many numbers as they are bringing in, and in many cases some churches are actually diminishing in size.  Hmmm…wonder if there is a correlation?

Y-y-ya think?

I know I’ve been sounding cynical a lot lately, but dammit!  I’m over it!  I’m not running with the crowd off the cliff for the sake of blind obedience in following the leader.  I mean, why???  God gave me a mind.  Seems an awful waste not to use it.