anarchy?

Something I’ve been pondering lately is this: If the cross is what we who believe in it believe it to be, then it has to be about more than just black or white, good or bad, right or wrong, heaven or hell.  It has to be!  For a man to go to the extremes of stepping out of a celestial state to being born into flesh, born of a woman by means of supernatural seed, for Him to choose the life of consecration to the walk with God that He did, for Him to go through all that He did to die and overcome death, it has to be about infinitely more than just a bunch of rules and regulations!  After all, the people who believed in and followed the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob whom Jesus descended from and was kin to had all that.  They had rules to live by already – and plenty of them.

This is just one example of what I mean when I said in the previous post that I have way more questions than answers as to what this is all about and what it all means to truly love and follow Jesus.  I am probably already edging toward it by my opening paragraph, but if I were to list every question that I currently have, I would probably be cast off as an anarchist (but, come to think of it, the authorities of Jesus’ time pretty much called Him out as an anarchist, so perhaps I am in very good company…).  What I am coming to believe more and more is that where I am and what I am going through is not merely anarchy for the sake of anarchy.  I just can no longer make myself adhere to a God of rules.  When Jesus revealed Himself to me, I didn’t see a rulemaker.  In fact, that day – and if I were to be completely honest about that day and every day since – He did not give me even one rule to follow.  In fact, He didn’t even give me the rule that I should follow Him.  He just appeared, letting me really see Him.  I used to wonder if I missed something because I didn’t come away from that experience with any instructions or any idea, really, as to what I was supposed to do with His appearing.  What I’m beginning to see now is that what He did was merely let me have a good long look at who I and others had been talking about and see for myself who He really was (and, by the way, what had been said versus what I actually saw that day couldn’t have been more polar opposite).  He appeared then faded from view, leaving the choice completely up to me as to whether to follow and find out more or not to follow and dismiss the whole thing.

And that is the biggest problem I am having right now with modern Christianity.  We have become experts at the in-your-face approach of telling others the rules and dictating how all should follow them or else brace for the wrath of God – while we simultaneously demonstrate time and time again how completely LOUSY we are at following the one and only rule Jesus did give us in the gospels, which is to love one another as He has loved us.  I don’t see love calling out people, pointing out their “faults” and berating and condemning them for it and telling them there is hell to pay for it.  Perhaps it’s because of what I saw when I saw Jesus that day, but I see Love simply being Love and allowing people choose for themselves whether to walk in the light of it – or not.

As much as it may appear so, this is by no means taking the easy way out.  It’s easy to become rigid and make rules.  It’s easy to bully people into following those rules.  It takes no creative genius or deep thought or contemplative study of any kind to become a bully.  In fact, bullying takes little to no effort of any kind.  And that is what I see so very much of from those who profess themselves to be speaking on behalf of Christ these days.  I see a bunch of bullies…mean, mean loud-mouthed bullies!  And it makes me cringe every time I see it.  I think it always did, but I was so caught up in the hype of “the movement” that I ignored it, pushed it aside…until I could do it no longer…until every sensibility I ever gleaned from the Christ who revealed Himself to me in the beginning could no longer sit down inside me and abide it.  Something within me rose up (terrifying me in the process) and said, “No more!  Enough!  I will participate no further!  I will not further this cause; for this CANNOT be the cause of the Christ who loved me and gave Himself for me and gave Himself to me!”

And here I am 4 years later, having had all this time to really think, really search, really look, really examine myself and what I am doing, to really take the time to find out what this is all about, and I am no closer to being able to regroup and rally for the cause of bullying in the name of Christ.  If that makes me an anarchist, then I am pleased to be called an anarchist.  Jesus called the leaders of His earthly time out for their bullying, and often.  He refused to participate too.  And He too was labelled an anarchist for it.

So yeah…if that’s what I must be labelled in order to seek and promote peace, I’ve decided I’ve no choice but to learn to be at peace with whatever labels the bullying type may put on me.  Whatever it takes to be one less bully in the number, one less speck of the pollution that is causing the salt to lose its savour.

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wtf…(what the fetter)

To quote a particularly well known television personality named RuPaul, We come into this world naked, and the rest is drag.

You know?  Truth is truth, and that drag queen spoke a little piece of truth, and what else can one say?  I’ve been trying on a few different outfits since heading for the hills a few years ago, ducking out of the scene of the Who’s Who in the Charismatic Zoo.

I haven’t really questioned why until recently, but I came into the 20-teens being what I call, 90s illiterate and have kind of been playing catch-up.  That, of course, was a conscious choice I made for the time period – probably because that’s when the world started taking the craziest imaginable turn, and I had no clue how to deal with it.  I found Jesus then went on a mad search to find “my flavor” of the Christian gathering scene.  And, in staying true to the trend of being me, I went for the most intense possible thing I could find.

Part of it was survival, trying to figure out what to do with the mother I became upon giving birth, and finding something to help me make sense of something I finally came to realize, there is no making sense of what I chose to do with that.  I have always been fairly open about having a child and having made the decision while pregnant of giving that child up for adoption and going through with it.  What a minefield I chose to live out that part of my survival, evangelical Christianism…hoo, Lord!!!

A few years ago, when I’d had all I could stand of walking through that minefield, I took an unexpected turn and began walking through yet anther unfamiliar minefield.  And, it seems thus far that the mines I’ve stepped on here don’t pack nearly as much punch in terms of sheer ability to inflict major damage.  The very act of giving up my child and, subsequently, my motherhood, created an interesting dynamic of losing the luxury of further discovery of who I was supposed to be.  I guess that, looking back, it’s not surprising I turned to the most intense possible brand of evangelicalism.  It offered a lot of things and a lot of ways to direct my focus so that I could stay alive to keep my main focus, which has always been to see my child again since the day he walked out of my life in the arms of his adoptive mother.  I’ve been seeing him in pictures since he was 4 months old.  I am doing the best I can to continue to stay alive so that I can see that sweet face I kissed dozens of times a day during the 5 days he was with me.  I came back here, back to the place of his birth and upbringing in high hopes of seeing that happen.  I have since been very busy about the task of finding what to do with my life since that face-to-face I’ve been living for isn’t happening, and I’ve no idea if it is anywhere near or far off in the future.  But even if it had already happened, I would still have to be here in this place of having to figure out what to do with myself and what my part to play is in this particular chapter of the journey that is my life.  I don’t know how I could have avoided having every waking minute be about seeing my child again, but that’s what happened, and there’s nothing I can do about it – any of it.  I tried putting my focus in other places, I tried as hard as I suppose it is possible for one to try.  I mean, if you’ve ever been to a Charismatic church service, then you have to know that is the epitome of places where it is possible to put all of one’s focus.  If you can’t focus there, then it’s quite possible you can’t focus anywhere…I mean…how in your face can a thing get?

In evangelicalism, there’s all these things that one is supposed to do and not supposed to do if one is to be “successful” in that scene.  It’s not like I hadn’t tried little samples of a little bit of everything going in, so I don’t feel I “missed out” on much of anything.  It’s not that.  There just came a point where certain questions could not be ignored, such as, Well, who is really saying we can’t do this and we can’t do that, and we have to do this, and do it this way, and why?  Some things became painfully obvious immediately.  It was clear enough that I could not drink and do drugs and hope to be a “successful” Christian, first off, because I wouldn’t survive long enough to become successful at that or anything if I continued down that road.  And there was the revolving door relationships trend I had going, and yeah, that wasn’t working out too well, so that wasn’t a very hard thing to walk away from either.  I’d tried on a lot of different religious and spiritual paths, and this one seemed to hold the most promise, so that’s the one I stayed with the longest.

But there is no perfect thing, because all things are made manifest in an imperfect world.  Do I still want to be a good Christian?  Meh.  Perhaps.  What I am more interested in is tapping into the true essence of what makes all things possible.  I’ve no compulsion to look the part anymore, so I’m trying on a few different outfits, if you will.  One of those outfits is being a member of a band.  It is the band that my husband and brother-in-law formed years ago when they started writing songs together.

Success in the evangelical world meant turning away from secular music – which always presented a particularly awkward problem because, to be very honest, there is very little Christian music that interests me, and I really didn’t have much of an interest in doing Christian music.  I can count on one hand the number of people whose focus of their music is directed toward their faith who have substance enough to hold my interest.  Other than that, most of it, including and especially “worship” music just sounds like a bunch of whining to me.

I can deal with pretty much anything that is honest.  If one wants a career in music, then have that, but don’t drag the Lord into it just because you feel some sort of obligation to.  If it’s about the Lord for you, and the music is a vehicle, that is beautiful.  To be very honest, though, I don’t find that the majority of it is really like that.  My assessment at this juncture is this: Christian music is in just as big of an identity crisis as the secular music machine and has been for years – just like most things in this world I’ve experienced as I’ve been passing through.

I wasn’t a successful or “up and coming” something-or-other that was going to take the world by storm (although, there was a small stretch just before rehab when I suffered such delusions of grandeur among the many such delusions that I won’t get into just now…).  At times in my life, music meant a great deal to me and helped me navigate through very treacherous waters.  At other times, I was barely able to recognize there even was such a thing as music.  When I feel myself wanting to just appreciate and enjoy music, I really enjoy it.  I enjoy listening to it, singing along with it, dancing to it.  I enjoy making music when opportunities to do that come up – which hasn’t happened a lot throughout the entirety of my life.

When my brother-in-law basically decided that he was buying a keyboard for the band and that I was going to play it, I didn’t have any idea if it was something I would find enjoyable or vexing.  Pleasantly, thus far, I’ve found it enjoyable.  A keyboard player is not something I ever aspired to be, and electric keyboards were something I never had any interest in learning.  I took piano lessons from the time I was 6 years old until I was in the 11th grade and took lessons for a couple of brief periods as an adult…I don’t really know why.

So that’s my newest costume, being the keyboard player in a band – and, yes, having to deal with little tinges of guilt pangs, some leftover conditions from being in captivity in the Zoo.  Like all things, I’m measuring it by this: does my heart of hearts condemn me in it?  No.  It’s just another thing in the closet to pull out and try on until I can run free and naked in the Field where there is no awareness of being naked, the green pasture where all is light and all is truth in its purest form.  I’m not even really giving myself permission to “indulge” in this.  I’m simply doing it and enjoying it and choosing to continue in it for as long as my heart feels free to.

I don’t know these days if I’m being the “right kind” of Christian.  It’s not that it doesn’t matter what kind of example I set.  I just know this: I don’t want to be in fetters of my own or of anyone else’s making.  And that’s what the past few years have been about, determining, wtf: what the fetter, where the fetter, and why the fetter.  Of every kind of drag I tried on (and some of it more of a drag than others), I’m taking a good hard look and asking the very hard questions, such as, was the Lord really asking of me to put myself in any or all of the particular fetters I found myself in?  I don’t even want the fetter of having to call myself a Christian – which is way more of a fetter than I was able to objectively see while running so frantically in the pen at the Zoo.  If I’m going to wear a fetter, I’ve determined that I’m going to at least be as fully conscious and as clear as possible as to why I’m going to choose to allow it, and that’s the bottom line.  That’s the truth of where I am in this part of my journey.

Do I still love Jesus?  I find quite often that when I really look inward and examine my heart, much to my surprise, based on that which presented itself as Jesus and didn’t quite pan out to be Him, yes.  I do still love Jesus, and when that happens, I am surprised by how much.  But I really want to know what that means.  What does it really mean to love Jesus?  The nod-in-mental-assent answer while sitting safely in the pew is to look at how He first loved me and love others accordingly, and I can and do agree wholeheartedly with that, but to really know what that is, I can’t honestly say I ever really knew what that was.  I do know that when I looked to Him with such intensity that I had determined I wasn’t moving until I knew one way or the other that He’s either real or He’s not, but I’m gonna know, and I’m gonna know one way or the other TODAY.   I felt Him and have felt His presence in my life since that day.  At this point I have way more questions than answers – and I used to be the girl with the answer for everything, so that’s kind of a refreshing place to be – now that I’ve been here long enough to acclimate to the sheer terror or being in such a place…I’ve never functioned well in uncertainty, so the fact that I’m not in a straitjacket is a testament to how real and how relevant He is to me.  I just don’t quite know what to do with it all at this point.  All I can really do is look at what has been made abundantly clear has nothing whatsoever to do with who and what Jesus is in truth, and eliminate it as a possibility of that which I choose to live my life by.  The rest is a mystery.

hydrated with hope

drinkingwater

I had an experience when I was involved in an oppressive religious setting that, if I’d been just a little more willing to pay attention, could have told me everything I needed to know about whether or not I was where it behooved me to be.  I’ve heard Christians for years talk about going to church and “getting fed” or “not getting fed.”  One thing I could say about the situation I was in was that I was definitely getting fed.  Funny thing is, I didn’t even realize that with all that heavy food I was also getting dehydrated – until I went to a meeting with a preacher who was a total encourager.  As he continued to speak, I began to feel my spirit literally getting watered and filled once again with hope.  I hadn’t even realized that hope had started to leave me until I felt myself returning to the only place of rest I’d ever found, the place of hope.

Many instances in scripture talk about wellsprings of life and rivers of living water.  Interestingly, our bodies will die without water much faster than they will without food.  It takes about 3 days for our bodies to enter into a critical situation without water.  It takes about 2-3 weeks without food for the body to be at risk of expiration.  I’ve found that there are a lot of “feeders” out there but few waterers – and I don’t believe it to be coincidental that the word “feeders” sounds parasitic.  At the very least, food is not easily digestible without liquid.  If food cannot be digested, it is basically worthless; it does the body little to no good.

Here is another thought: Fire can be a useful and beneficial element, but if it gets out of hand, water, and lots of it, becomes necessary to prevent it from doing further damage.

I am beginning to wonder: If I am having a hard time forgiving, could I read it as merely a sign that my soul has become thirsty?  That, perhaps, could be a fair assessment.  If I find that I am acutely aware of feelings of being distraught, disappointed, discouraged, angry, ashamed, sorrowful, etc., if I were to stop and take stock, might I find that my spirit has become dry?  That does not sound too far fetched.

The only time I ever saw in scripture that Jesus referred to Himself as food, He also talked of offering something to drink.  He talked of offering hydration, of living water, of a spring-fed well of water springing up into life, etc.  This is a bonk on the head, a could’da hadda V-8 kinda moment as this has only just now dawned on me.  It may not be news to anyone else, but it is certainly a timely realization for me.

Food is important, and the right food makes all the difference in the health and wellbeing of the body.  However, proper nutrition is next to impossible to achieve without water.  Perhaps it would not be too far-fetched to imagine that spiritual nutrition works similarly.

What it all boils down to

It took so long to recover from all the confusion and the emotional turmoil it created within me to arrive at a normal, healthy person’s perspective on my rather intense church experience some years ago.  And the sum of it all, I feel, is this:

Paul exhorted those in the congregation of a particular church he founded to follow him as he followed Christ.  So good little parishioners read that in the Bible and take that to heart and attempt it with their whole heart.  But what if the man who proclaims he is following Christ is requiring a congregation to follow him in something that may or may not be actually following Christ but, rather, his own personal convictions and/or ambitions?  And what if the man himself is convinced he is following Christ and doesn’t see it’s, rather, his own personal convictions and/or ambitions?  And what if it’s all happening too fast to question?  What then?  Does one toss aside the questions being raised with the red flags and follow him off a cliff?  And what if this man says it’s okay to question him on things but when that is tested and one does question him the question gets evaded or shot down and he charges on, full speed ahead?

Average, “normal” people are likely to say, “Well, you just walk away,” but what if it’s not that simple?  What if one has made a commitment to not only follow this man but also be comrades in arms with these people you are congregating with, and that commitment meant a great deal at the time it was made?  I realize that sounds a lot like marriage.  And, in some ways, it can be like that.  In marriage, when one stands up before, literally, God and everybody and promises to be by that person’s side, one doesn’t just toss that commitment aside without time and careful thought – unless such a one succumbed to idiocy and made said promises against his or her better judgment at the onset (ahem, like I did in the turbulent impulsiveness of my youth so very many moons ago with my first marriage).

In my case, though I knew I was being crushed under the weight of a man’s will, the question became, “where would I go?”  I wound up asking myself that for quite a few years, and lack of an answer left me staying merely by default.  And that is where a lot of people find themselves, wondering where they would go.  They’ve set up their whole lives around this one thing, bought houses to be closer to the church and the congregation, chosen jobs that more readily make allowances for all that’s required to take part; they’ve married within the congregation, chosen their friends solely from within the congregation, all their kids are friends with all the others’ kids, and on and on the list goes.  So, clearly, it becomes about far more than just leaving a church.  It becomes a question of abandoning a whole way of life…never an easy thing to do – and never a thing to be easily convinced one truly wants to do.

Sometimes, circumstances make the choice for a person – and often those circumstances are catastrophic, unfortunately.  If you read the Bible missed the part in every account of every human being recorded therein pointing out each person’s frailty and fallibility, then you’ve read the Bible with blinders on.  And, who knows…maybe some people do just that.  I didn’t, when I first started reading it.  I got that.  But, perhaps, after a while I began to brush aside what had been so clear – another thing very easy to do over time and the development of other habits.

I write these things for the benefit of those who look at it from an outside perspective.  And I write these things for the benefit of those still caught in the struggle.  It’s devastating to leave a church where everything is designed to be about the church.  For many of us, we follow the church because, in the words of a great man who helped liberate a lot of people, “I have a dream.”  We look into the pages of the Bible at the early followers of Jesus after the crucifixion, and being a part of something like that becomes our dream, something we’d be willing to give up everything we know to be a part of.  So, in a sense, not only does leaving mean leaving a way of life that’s been established, but it also means broken dreams…all of that very painful stuff.  And it’s human nature to avoid pain; it just is.  So the pain of staying becomes preferable to the pain of pulling up all those roots.  I now have the benefit of personal experience, but it didn’t feel beneficial at the time I was going through it.  Breaking free was very painful – and the pain lasted for a long time.  And that doesn’t seem like something a “sane” person would subject himself or herself to.  And I did question my sanity through the aftermath – pretty much every day.

But, in time, I began to sense the Lord’s acceptance, and, eventually, His acceptance became more pervasive than the voices of rejection dancing round in my head and making minced meat of my heart.  And maybe that’s the lesson in it all (to be honest, I haven’t come to any hard fast conclusion as to what the lesson is yet).  Maybe the lesson in it for me is: if freedom is why Christ gave His life, then what’s freedom worth to me?  I had the benefit of turning my eye then ultimately my heart and my life in Christ’s direction outside the walls of a church and became convinced that Jesus had a better way than the way I’d been going without much in the way of input from within a church setting.  Of course, I began seeking a place to congregate pretty quickly after Christ became real to me.  And I knew I wanted something substantially more than a superficial, once a week homage to this thing that had happened that had changed absolutely every part of my life.  And more than a token homage is what so, so many people who ultimately abuse their power appear to offer upon first encounter with their whole gig.

The thing is, I got a chance to see God work in my life outside the lines of the coloring book of any man’s creating.  If I hadn’t, I might have ignored the part of my heart where Christ came to dwell that softly kept whispering not to give up on Him – even so…even though someone led me to believe – and indeed even intimidated me into believing – that I couldn’t follow Christ without him and without those who were following him.  No man can take part in the blood that bought me and claim that blood as the ransom Jesus paid for my life!  No man has paid what Christ paid for me to belong to him!  Christ’s sacrifice is the only sacrifice that could please God, and, therefore, it is not my obligation or responsibility to become any man’s sacrificial lamb, period – any man other than Christ, that is.  And Jesus never had to manipulate me or use coercion tactics of any kind for me to want to follow Him.  That’s not the way my walk with Him was in the beginning with no man around to muddy the waters.  I sensed nothing but liberty and equal footing with Jesus.  He is the only One who ever lifted me up not to drop me on my arse and leave me coughing in the dust, and I instinctively knew He wasn’t there to use me up and bleed me dry.  I instinctively knew I could count on Him; when I called He was there, and there was never any condemnation.  It was an ebb and flow, a give and receive kind of relationship, and there were no threats looming over me of ruin if I left.  I had no reason to even think about leaving because I found freedom and total acceptance (without having to earn it) with Him.

How quickly and how readily people can ensnare other people, but they didn’t learn this from Jesus.  This I know as surely as I know the sun came shining through my window this morning.

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.

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!!!