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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Guys: How to Win Me or Lose Me

So I'm pretty damn good looking. I'm a young, educated, well rounded (and I'm not just talking about my curves), beautiful woman. I've got everything a guy could ever want or need. I'd make a great girlfriend and a damn good wife and mother one day. But like so many other of my extremely eligible friends- I am single.

There may be a lot of fish in the sea, but somebody put something in the water cause there's something wrong with all the fish I'm seeing. So guys, I'm gonna help you out. I'm gonna tell you what will make it or break it for me and probably a lot of other women my age.

MAKES:

1. Beard. You could be bald. You could be hairy. You could be a 2 on the scale of attractiveness, but if you have a beard you instantly jump to the top of my list and I won't be able to take my eyes off you or your beard (which inevitably will lead to your face and eyes and all that good eye contact stuff).

2. Nice shoes. I'm talking about a good pair of dapper shoes. And if you don't know what dapper means, just forget it. We wouldn't have worked out anyway.

3. Smell good. Now most guys are pretty good about this, but when you're not...it's depressing. I will follow a guy around the mall just to trail his scent for a little while longer. Creepy? A little, but wouldn't you want a girl like me following you? Yes. Ok. Moving on.

4. Make me laugh. Pretty self explanatory.

5. Don't be a cocky, self-righteous, ass-hole.

BREAKS:

1. VIDEO GAMES!!!!!!! I am very generous. (One of my many great winning qualities) So I, unlike many women, will allow you ONE Nerd-Card. If you want to dress up like a warlock on the weekends and play dungeons and dragons- Fine. But you cannot do that and have Star Wars shit. But, if when I talk to you and I'm getting to know you and you feel the need to bring up your love of video games in the summary of your identity, I just want you to know that all the warning signs in my head are flashing like a bomb alert.

2. Dirty. Good hygene guys. I'm not talking about you coming home to me all covered in mud from working on the tractor all day. THAT DOES NOT OFFEND ME. But, I'm talking good, everyday hygene. The stuff your momma tried to teach you.

3. Don't take forever to ask me out. The longer you take, the more I lose interest. It comes across as you not having the balls to go after what you want. Sorry. It is what it is.

4. You're a cocky, self-righteous ass-hole.

 

And that's pretty much it. See, I'm not that hard to win over. I'm not that picky. Just get your shit together and call me already. Okay? Thanks!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Stranger I Know

I've been journeying as a broken fragmented version of myself. When He first invited me, rather lured me, off the paved manicured way and into the wild wood where the path curves and bends in unpredictable and mysterious ways, I did not realize that I entered that way divided. There was a part of me that I did not allow to journey with me, a part of me that I exiled to stay on the paved way while I journeyed further up and further into this Wonderland called the strait and narrow. That part of me was who I used to be, my past self- the parts I was embarrassed of and unreconciled with.

Further up and further into the wild wood I found peace and freedom and I rediscovered lost and distant parts of myself long estranged. I found God in the woods. I found grace in the woods. I found my feet in the woods. But this curved and winding path brought me round the bend and laid me within eye and earshot of the paved manicured way from whence I wandered off.

I'm watching these people walk the ways I used to walk, talking the ways I used to talk- using that despicable Christianese, language drenched in works and trying harder. I'm watching as these people march in soldierly fashion and I'm angry. I'm watching these people scowel at those leaving their road and I'm enraged. I'm watching these people like they are zoo animals behind an enclosed captivity, tamed and duped into thinking those walls envelop life and freedom and safety. But I see into their eyes and I remember what it was like to be on that side of the fence. I remember thinking I was free. I remember judging all those who were "lost" on the other side, wishing they would just cross over into true "freedom." And it's that memory that makes me the angriest of all. I'm embarrassed. "Can everyone tell that I came from there?"

I'm trying to hide it. I'm trying to run from it. I want to look away. I want to avoid it. I don't want to look at the paved way. I want to leave it behind and forget it, pretend it never happened. I don't want to accept them as part of my household, part of my family, but I don't know why. I resent that road, that way, and the people on it. Mostly I hate the contrast it brings up. I don't like who I was there and I don't like being faced with who I was there. But my journey through the woods has brought me here to memory lane and I don't know why. I'm faced with a stranger I know all too well and I have nothing but hate and resentment for her. I'm ashamed of who I was. I'm afraid to get to close to even the memory of her for fear that she might pollute and destroy everything I've come to know and love.

"Whatever is denied cannot be healed."- Abba's Child by Brennan Manning

"I myself am the enemy who must be loved."- Carl Jung

The thing is that I didn't make the connection that it was the stranger I left behind the edge of wood that I hated, I was too busy blaming everyone else I saw walking by saying, "I can't stand the way YOU talk. I can't stand the way YOU treat people. I can't stand the way YOU live." All the while what I was really saying was, "I can't stand the way you used to talk. I can't stand the way you treated people. I can't stand the way you lived." All directed and aimed and the lonely stranger I exiled to remain on that way. But I see her now. And I see that I rejected what has already been redeemed. I rejected who I used to be and did not allow her to journey with me out of shame and fear and anger. That past self, that stranger I know, was not something that needed to be redeemed but something that had already been redeemed, I just hadn't accepted it yet. I hadn't welcomed her into the woods.

How could I not be at war with those who walk on the paved manicured way when I am at war with the very memories of who I was when I walked it?

"If I am not in touch with my own belovedness, then I cannot touch the sacredness of others. If am estranged from myself I am likewise a stranger to others."- Abba's Child by Brennan Manning

I hated her and He loved her. I cut her off and He redeemed her. I tried to forget her, so He brought me back to her because, in order to be whole, I need her. In order to be truly myself I need who I was, NOT as I was, but as He has made her new.

So I wrote them a letter:

Lord forgive me for not loving what You love, for hating things You have redeemed. I forgive the girl I was, the ways I tried, the holes I dug for myself, the lies I believed, the pain I put myself through, the many long routes I took simply because I knew no other way. I forgive the girl I was for the grace, the love, and the freedom she so long rejected. And I ask her to forgive me for not loving her as she was, but instead imposing who she should have been on her. I ask her to forgive me for casting her out, for not welcoming her home as the Father did; for rejecting her and hating her; for not accepting her for who she has become, for being an unfair accuser of who she was. Come home to me old friend, let us be one. Join me on this hill. Let us be mended and joined in the grace that freed and healed us both. I need you. Without you I am not whole. I want to love you.

"Do not be afraid, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are Mine. You are precious in My eyes, because you are honored and I love you...the mountains may depart, the hills be shaken, but my love for you will never leave you and My covenant of peace with you will never be shaken." - Isaiah 43:1, 4; 54:10

Welcome home. Let us wander the woods together as one, no longer as strangers but as one. Maybe as I journey toward wholeness I'll learn how to love everyone else I left behind on the paved and manicured way. Maybe my journey will bend again and again to lure others into the woods or maybe have me step out of the trees to love them for a mile or two. I don't know. I don't know what's around this bend. But I'm better now that I have her again and I feel that I will continue to get better as we go further up and further in.

 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

A Lady of Regrets

I've never forgotten the day I said goodbye to my church before I left for the "mission field" (and if you're just tuning in to my blog you should know my opinions of such terms and actions have radically changed since then) an elderly lady came up to me and said that when she was 20 years old that she "got a call" to go to India and she never did- and here's the part I'll never forget- she said that she has regretted not going every single day of her life.

It was her caution and her exaultation to me. Both a "good on ya for going" and a "don't do what I did" kind of heavy-handed pat on the back.

I've never forgotten that encounter. It used to be a motivator for me. "Keep going or else you'll end up with regrets like that lady." "Don't quit or else you'll be haunted for the rest of your life like that lady." But now I'm filled with nothing but sorrow for that woman. She had a family. Children. Grandchildren. A home. And she regretted it. It wasn't enough. It wasn't good. It wasn't honoring or pleasing to God in her sight; sight which had been so guilt ridden by the calls of Christian duty foisted upon her. What a shame.

I don't think that's what God wants. I don't think God is up there feeling disappointed because she didn't answer "her call" (if there is such a thing). I don't think He looks at her family or at her life and thinks, "Well I certainly made the best out of her bad decision. Too bad she didn't go to India, she really missed out."

What have we as a Christian culture done to make being a mom and a grandmother something to be regretted?

What have we as a Christian culture done to encourage neglecting our own families for the sake of saving someone else's?

I don't know. Just a thought.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Traveler I Seek

"So turning left and right in absolute synchrony, Like the waves that carry them, As if one single entity, And yet so many; each unique."- The School of Fish (a poem) by Sabeen Khurshid

Scuba Diving Bonaire - Something Special from Pierre Molin on Vimeo.

Imagine if one fish decides to turn and confront another...

The synchrony with which they once danced through the ocean, the unity and conjoined nature with which they once behaved as a single entity, would be thwarted.

The devastating truth of the matter is that we do this all the time and we call it "accountability." We halt a symbiotic journey of friends in order to turn and address another in confrontation.

Are we not members of the same body? Is it not our diversity and individuality functioning at a corporate level that makes us so beautiful? Like a ribbon swaying and skating through the realm of the sea?

Were we not made to blend and move together?

Why would someone interrupt that?

I'm just not going to do it anymore. I'm not going to hold you accountable for your actions because I'm not God, I'm not your judge. I'm your fellow traveler. And I am not going to compare your journey to mine because they are too different and uniquely and specifically catered to who we are as children and seekers of God. I don't want any part of that anymore. I don't want to be that person anymore. I don't want to be the one that interrupts the flow of the unit. I want to journey and travel well for my own sake and for the sake of the symphony that is US.

I'm not saying that I won't ever be that person again from this day forth, but it is my sincere desire to try to be the person that supports and engages rather than the one who confronts and ostracizes.

I appreciate your journey. I appreciate the variety and sinew of avenues through which we arrive at our common ground. I want to celebrate who you are and how you travel. I want to be inspired by your ebb and flow. I want to encourage the beauty you exonerate. I want to enjoy the rhythms and movements that you take as I learn to move with them in my own way. I want to trust the longevity of journies rather than assault the temporary with anxiety, fear and doubt. I want to extend the respect and trust that I have so graciously received from a God Who sees every hiccup I will make along the way and still refuses to take away my license to choose. I don't want to disrupt that, I want to be a part of that. And after all, isn't that the longing in every human heart?

 

 

 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Sandbox

It has been said that our eschatology (our beliefs about the "end times") directly effects our orthodoxy (our doctrine and practices). The generally accepted eschatological belief, at least in my life's radius, has been that we are short on time, that the "end times" are near, that we are in "the last days", and that that innevitable judgement is soon at hand. It's understandable then that the rest of life might feel a bit rushed as a result. If hellfire and brimstone are just around the corner, then I better get my shit together; right?

Well here's the trouble with that: I don't have my shit together...and that's okay. I don't have everything figured out and sorted. If my mind and heart are a big sandbox full of buried treasures and lurking ant hills that need to be dealt with then this is me sorting through the remnants bit by bit, taking my time to understand what toys are buried beneath the sand and taking my time getting rid of the ants as they are uncovered by all the digging and all the playing.

And here's the great part of that: I don't feel any rush to get my shit together for God, this world or for my own sake...cause I'm okay.

///

Remember when we were kids and we'd get so totally absorbed in the moments while we played outside? Each family seems to have had their own way of telling the kids it was time to come inside. For me, it was the same signal that was set in place for my mom when she was a kid; it was always when the sun would start to go down and the street light would come on; that was our cue to bring it inside. And for me, I keep looking up from my sandbox to see if it's time to wrap it up and the sun hasn't even begun to set; there are no cues telling me it's time to move on, time to quit playing, time to quit sifting, time to quit digging, time to quit being. I'm not sure if that street light will ever come on.

///

There's such a rush to have things figured out, to have the answers to all your faith questions, to get over your problems. Such a rush to be healed, to do, to become, to move on, to "get it" and "get there". And I think that's largely in part because we all believe that we have no time. No time? And yet we believe that there is life after this life? No time and yet we are believers in eternity?

A fake book (An Imperial Affliction by Peter Van Houten) in a real book (The Fault In Our Stars by John Green) was "quoted" saying that "pain demands to be felt." Pain demands to be felt. Happiness deserves to be felt. Joy needs to be felt. Love ought to be felt. Peace wants to be felt. And I think you've, we've, been given all the time in the world to feel them because He is the Beginner and Finisher, the Beginning and the End- it all starts and ends with Him and He doesn't end and there was none before Him; He is. So in Him, we've got all the time we need. And this God, He lingers and He waits and He endures and He stays and He is still and He is present. For what are we in such a hurry? For whom? Did He tell you to hurry up? Is your street light on or are you coming inside before it's time, if there is such a thing?

Maybe you don't feel the same way I do, and that's fine. Me? I'm taking my time, I'm moving at a slower pace because I've got time. And if I die, if my street light comes on, and my sandbox is still a box of buried treasure splattered with ant hills then I'm okay with that. I don't want to live and leave finished. Leonardo Da Vinci said, "Art is never finished, only abandoned." Meaning you can always keep adding to and taking from art, it'll never be finished; all you can do is get to a place where it feels right and you are satisfied with what is before you abandoning it to be as it may. And with eternity so deeply and intimately engrained within us, I don't think such beings can ever be finished.

So I'm going to take my time in the sandbox. I'm going to feel all that needs to be felt. I'm going to enjoy what I find and deal with what comes to the surface at the pace of Him Who sets the sun. Join me?

 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

For The Wanderers and Lingerers

There's a lot of discussion at the moment about leaving the church and/or The Church. From "I'm a Millenial and I'm Not Leaving The Church" to "Church, Here's Why People Are Leaving You" and many more. The fact is that there are a lot of people walking out church doors right now, almost an exodus of sorts, and those left behind are scrambling to understand why and those doing the leaving are trying to explain it all; the problem being that misunderstanding played a huge part in the break up that lead to the leaving in the first place, and so misunderstanding continues. Perhaps I will only add to the noise and confusion.

///

It irks me when people talk down about generations, especially this present generation; when they go on rants about the moral demise and the woes and horrors that the corporate "we" engage in, the ways we fail and don't measure up. I see what they're talking about, I just don't see it on the scale that they do. And perhaps it's because I've surrounded myself with a minority who give me great reason to hope, but nevertheless I hope and I have great hope for this present generation. You may see shadows but I see the light encapsulating the shadows and it is bright and it is beautiful and is in unexpected unforseen places.

So yes, many of this present generation are walking out church doors and no one can say for sure if they've left THE Church with a capital 'C' (As in the global, universal, Bride-of-Christ Church) or if they've just left that particular church with a lowercase 'c' (as in a singular community of believers). And I get how that's scary, not knowing if there's a reason or if there's a problem and not knowing what those would even be. I get why people are worried for their friends and family. People are walking out scorned, huffing and puffing, and you're afraid they're never coming back; you're afraid that walking out those doors means they're turning their back on God. You're afraid this is all permanent.

Maybe for some it is, maybe I'm just making generalizations for the minority, but my great hope in this generation has lead me to believe that they, we, are walking out church doors and not forever forsaking His Church. Because there seems to be a common thread in every huff and puff and it is a deep frustration with the way things are being done, something isn't working like it used to and people are beginning to notice. Yes people are being burned by the church and they are limping out wounded and probably bitter. But just as Brennan Manning points out in his book, "Abba's Child", "Often breakdowns lead to breakthroughs." And maybe it was pain that was the final straw, but that pain is bringing awareness to a broken peg in the system and that awareness will bring breakthrough.

I don't think people are leaving His Church and forsaking God. I think people are forsaking an attitude within the churches and are finding God in the wilderness' they fled to. And I think they are waiting and willing to rebuild when the time is right.

For generations now We, His Church, have been growing under a try harder gospel and backs are finally starting to break under the tremendous weight that we ourselves have continually applied in conscious and subconscious attempts to earn His favor, grace, forgiveness, and pleasure; that inheritance We ran off with to go and make it on Our own is finally running out, forcing Us to go back to the Father for the grace We forsook. People are seeing and feeling the effects of the cracks, the holes in the system, and they're leaving huffing and puffing. I hope and pray that this huffing and puffing is just a sample of the wind coming from the East which will blow this self-made house of straw down that He may rebuild us and restore us to our destined foundation of utter, undeniable, unshakable, unquenchable grace that we may be made into the beautiful Bride He beholds in His faithful, unwavering, hope-filled gaze.

And again, maybe I'm making generalizations for the minority, but I believe people are finding and experiencing a greater gospel than the one that tells us to accept Jesus into our hearts, serve Him and please Him, and then you'll go to heaven; something greater than the one that tells you to work hard, fake it till you make it, and sacrifice again and again; something greater than the one that tells you this life is for naught and then lists the rules and expectations that God demands you obey and fulfill. I believe that people are finding something deeper, more whollistic, more intimate, and vivacious and, unfortunately, it is in so many churches where the scent of that rapturous encounter becomes so faint that they have to follow that scent out the doors of your church rather than being drawn by it right to the Table of Communion.

Change is coming. It has to come. My point in all this is: don't count out the Wanderers, We are waiting and watching the hand of He Who has promised to make all things new. And Wanderers, don't count out the Lingerers, they too are waiting and watching the hand of He Who has promised to make all things new. And perhaps that too is a generalization, but I cannot help it- I have great hope in this present generation. I have great hope for His Church and our churches.

 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

I'm saying "No" to Social Justice

I see that there are terrible things going on in the world today and there is a part of me that sympathizes, but I'm still just all outta care...and that's ok.

"Compassion fatigue" is a term used to refer to people whose compassion is worn out; the demands on their care surpassed their means to continue caring and/or coping. It's not that they don't care, they just can't. It was a term first applied to doctors and nurses who worked in the Great War; they had so many continual tragic demands hacking away at their compassion that at some point they just stopped, they went cold. It is an innate coping mechanism, a means of survival engrained in our psyche.

I was so heavily involved in activism for social justice for years and what I once called a "pause on passion", I now know is compassion fatigue. Part of me wants to care more than I do, perhaps that is an old guilt hanging on telling me what I should be feeling, but mostly I just don't yet feel that I can care. But I've learned that it's not something I can choose anyway, either I have the grace to do it or I don't and the only way I attain that grace is by receiving it from God. Some might call it a "calling", some might call it "favor" or "anointing"; right now I'm calling it grace and Grace gives you the freedom to say, "No."

And I wonder if that's where so many people have run into walls. I wonder if thats why activism for social justice has had such trouble sustaining its cause, because people have not had the freedom to say "No."

There has never really been an option to say "No" to someone who is flaunting injustice in your face; you either say, "Yes" and you're all in or you say, "Yes" and you fade with the hype or you say, "Yes" and you lie to not appear like an asshole, but at the end of the day you will say "Yes."

Because here's what is not often being said, "Pray and ask God if you should...because if He wills you to then He enables you to...He gives you the grace to do it." No, instead what's often been said is, "You should...How can you not?!...How can you just sit there?!..."

So many people have been shamed and guilt-tripped into action. And yes it is a noble cause, but by ungodly means. We took away people's freedom to say "No", eliminated the necessary grace from the equation, and now the cause is filled with people lacking the grace to sustain it or sustain themselves; we manipulated empty people into an industry of emptying; we forced the hand of broken people to serve and care for the most broken of our age.

Does God care for widows and orphans, the sojourners and the oppressed and does He want us to be a part of His plan to heal and restore and free??- ABSOLUTELY! But more than He ever wants you to do, He wants you to be. He wants you to be healed, to be restored, and to be free. You cannot give what you have not received.

I know now why I ran out on compassion, because I never calculated His grace into my giving equation; the answer to any need was always "Yes." God does not corner us into action, He gently takes us by the hand, working in us and with us and through us to grace soaked action IF AND ONLY IF He has purpose for us there.

If God hasn't given you the "thumbs up", then whatever grace you do have is going to run out. And He'll probably let you hang out on empty until you realize you need to turn to Him, in which case, He'll also probably show you how He never gave you the go ahead and He'll turn it around and redeem it all for you because He is a Good and Loving and Faithful God. But, if you can spare yourself from that emptying, it'd be in your best interest to just turn to Him and ask if you should say, "Yes" or if you should say, "No." Because sometimes He is saying "No" and if you are saying, "Yes" while God is saying, "No" then it will not go well for you nor will it go particularly well for the poor souls you are attempting to rescue or reach.

I have seen a lot of people in the industry of social justice who have no business being there and I'm watching so many people running off into the field beyond activism whom I fear for. Let me tell you something, I thought it was my calling to be there and I found I have no business being there; there are elements of my story, there are God-given parts of me and parts of my make up that prevent me from being in that kind of environment and being able to stay a healthy human being- I am not designed nor am I cut out for that kind of work, but most of all I have no business being there because He said, "No" and so I'm saying, "No." And maybe one day that will change, maybe it won't, but it won't ever happen without His "Yes" and without the grace that follows that affirmative.

This doesn't just go for social justice, it applies to EVERYTHING that we do and attempt to do. No, it's not a no brainer. No, it's not an automatic, "Yes." I highly recommend turning the word "should" into your God trigger where you look at Him to see whether or not He is nodding or shaking His head. You aren't invincible. He's created us with needs because we need Him. We are needy beings and it's okay. It's not only okay to say, "No", but sometimes it's necessary, just check with Him and trust He has YOUR best interests at heart as well as those on the other end.

 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Thought for the Day: Give, Give, Givers

Have you ever heard it said, "The more you give away, the more that will be returned to you"?

It's a lovely, well-intended, formula for blessings; give, give, give and you'll receive, receive, receive. But here we are left with a generation and a culture of Give, Give, Givers who are suffocating at the bottom of the heap of obligations and needs and who are scraping the bottom of their gift barrel and who are unable to receive. We have churches full of unbeknownced people suffering from compassion fatigue, churches full of empty people while the demands keep rising; stuck in a faulty system of increased demand with dwindling supply.

Here's what we do: we believe that the more we given the more we will receive so we give, give, give until we are empty and then we curse God in our despairing need. But everything is so clear, so easy: Place (blank) here and you will receive. But where do we receive from? Some magic fairy giving shoot that comes to us? When does it come? At what point does it come to restock? Do we have to tell it or does it know in it's omniscient fairyness? And if it does, then why are so many people empty or is the magic fairy giving shoot backed up on orders?

Or is the whole thing broken and incomplete?

Do we love because He first loved us or do we love Him so that He'll love us. Does forgiveness proceed repentance or do we repent in order to be forgiven? Does grace proceed our response or does our response cue grace? Your beliefs will impact your pattern of giving and its order.

We are so invested in the need, in the output, when perhaps we are designed to be invested in the source. Perhaps we are to be in the well that never runs dry. Perhaps we are to be soaking in the Water that will never cause us to go thirsty and feeding on the Bread that ensures we'll never go hungry.

I know there are needs, but if we don't recognize our great need then what are we really giving?

Receive.

Just a thought.

 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Thought For The Day: wanting more than

I was listening to this song that says, "I'm a lover of your presence and that's all I want to be" And I thought, "Is that true?...Is that right to be true even if it is?...Is that all God wants of us?"

It makes me think of that whole idea that we'll get to heaven and all we'll do is sing praise and worship for eternity...an idea I do not find a whole lot of truth or merit in.

There are plenty of things we want to be. We want to be wives and husbands, mothers and fathers, and grandparents. We want to be musicians, actors, artists, counselors, teachers, photographers, and (you fill in the blank) , and that's great! God is the One Who put those longings there, they are ways we, not only, further experience Him, know Him, and worship Him, but they are also there for our enjoyment and pleasure.

But the problem with lyrics like these is that we get caught in singing them, believing them, and then feeling guilty because we know that is not all we want to be; we feel guilty for wanting more than, in this case, to be "a lover of Your presence".

I am a lover of His presence! I am a lover of His presence and I am a lover of the many ways and avenues that I get to enjoy, discover, and coalesce in that presence, that presence that is waiting to be found in even the most curious and unlikely of places, things and beings; that presence that is oh so available, mysterious and surprising. And I think that's ok....

Just a thought

Sunday, June 15, 2014

...love God...love people

We have heard it said, "Love God, Love people." But isn't it really, "Be loved by God, love God, love yourself, love people."?

"LGLP" implies a whole lot of giving back, omitting the receiving. It's because He first loved us that we love Him at all (1John 4:19). And after you have connected in the flow of His love, it is only by loving yourself that you are even equipped or able to begin to love others (Mark 12:31). If you don't love yourself, how can you expect to love anyone else?

I get where the LGLP comes from; when the scribes came up to Jesus and asked Him, "Which commandment is the most important of all?" And Jesus answered "The most important is, Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, The Lord is one. And You shall love The Lord Your God with all Your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these (Mark 12: 28-31)."

"As yourself" is such a huge part of it. If you hate yourself, if you are critical of yourself, or if you are unkind to yourself; how can you say that you are not so with others? You can't. Love is meant to flow through you and if that love stops at you; do you really think that it is going to flow through you untainted?

If you are in connection and dwelling with a Loving God, receiving and giving, that overflow onto others will naturally follow. How? Why? Because Love loves to love and you are a big part of that sentiment.

Just a thought...

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Strait and Narrow

"Enter ye in at the straight gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because straight is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." At least that's how it was always said.

One day I got to thinking about the "straight and narrow" and I thought, "That's horseshit! There's nothing straight about this way. How could the Bible say that?!" So I looked. I opened up my Bible and I looked up Matthew 7:13-14, read it and lo and behold the word "straight" isn't anywhere to be found! "Aha!" I thought, "See, some Bible-thumping Baptist threw it in there!" (No offense to Baptists). Then I had the nagging thought that it might just be my translation that omitted it. So I looked it up and I found it there after all...well sort of.

This is how it truly is written: "Enter ye in at the STRAIT gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because STRAIT is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." Matthew 7:13-14 KJV

Well what the hell's a strait? Glad you asked.

STRAIT- "a narrow passage connecting 2 large bodies of water; a position of difficulty, distress or need" (dictionary.com) "a route or a channel, so narrow as to make passage difficult" (phrases.org.uk)

And if you look it up in an old sailor's word book you'll find this:

STRAIT- "a passage connecting one part of a sea with another." - from 1867 version of Admiral Smyth's Sailors Wordbook.

The word strait is closely related to and often replaced with CHANNEL- "the bed of a stream, river or other waterway; a navigable route between two bodies of water; the deeper part of a waterway; a course into which something may be directed; a means of access" (dictionary.com) "the deepest part of a waterway, usually marked for safe passage of water traffic." (seatalk.info)

All the sudden. The "strait and narrow" has new meaning. It has breath and life again. It's filled with mystery and wonder. It makes sense. A passage that connects us to other seas?.. A place of depth?...A position of need? ...A means of access? Suddenly I feel like Wonderland is not so amiss and Narnia just beyond the hedge. The "strait and narrow" inspires me with a renewed attraction and awe.

This way I've been on winds and curves and twists. It leads me up mountains and down steep valleys. Sometimes the wood is so thick I can't see where I'm going. Sometimes the mist so heavy, I'm walking purely by faith. Sometimes the Forrest feels enchanted and sometimes it feels haunted. There is nothing straight, nothing straight forward, about it. And some would say, indeed they have, that winding paths lead to straight to hell; that God's not a God of chaos therefore His way is orderly and clearly laid out. Really? Has that really been your experience?

I am not convinced by these people who claim to have all the answers. These people who are set and coasting on a long stretched out highway to heaven. I'm not convinced that is the way.

It is as if I was on this paved path, me with all my answers and concluded beliefs, and this road is surrounded on both sides by a thick wood. And my questions caused me to take my eyes off the road for a second, long enough to catch eye of a small, almost hidden, off the beaten path type of foot path leading into the thick of the wood. And for some curious reason I left everything I knew for the unknown. And I'm finding Him here! My senses are being healed. I can see, I can breathe, I can feel again, I can hear, I can taste. Do you hear what I'm saying? It's not on the straight and narrow! You may not believe me, but if you'll look up from duty and obligation, commands and enforcement, rules and governing for just a second and look around, perhaps your eyes will be free enough to see the winding footpath in the wood where peace and rest and freedom and Grace await you. I can't guarentee you'll see anything, you may not be ready and that's ok. Take heart and trust that God has purpose for you where you are and when it's time to move away, He will lead you there. And oh how I pray that He does soon. And I pray that one day our winding and curving paths of mystery and wonder will cross and that I can welcome you home and maybe walk with you for a bit as we follow our paths to another Sea, to shores we've never tasted or seen.

And one of the great beauties of this revelation is that the "strait and narrow" does not demand that we all walk the same path nor that we walk it the same way. God will most certainly lead you through different parts of this wood than He is leading me through and we will reach similar points at different times and we will sometimes, maybe, intersect and walk through the same thicket or meadow. CS Lewis said, "Each person is created to see a different facet of God's beauty- something no one else can see in quite the same way- and then to bless all worshippers through all eternity with an aspect of God they could not otherwise see." We aren't all supposed to be on the exact same road, as long as we're all headed toward the same ocean. It's how other's stories and tales of their journey's affect ours. It's how an Infinite God has made Himself uniquely transposable to each of us; I don't have to hear Him the same way you hear Him, I get to glean from how you hear Him and vice versa.

This is a beautiful way. This is a way of unity and individuality. It is a way of intimacy and personality. This is a way of mystery and reality. I will not follow some yellow brick road to heaven. I will, however, walk and rest in the current of deep straits and channels that carry me to greater shores.

Say what you will about this strait, I've found Him here and I'm not alone. I believe in this way with my whole being.

"The soul of the common people seems too straight and narrow to be wrought upon by any Part of Eloquence." - The Gifted Words of Monsieur Rapin

"Few there be that find it."...what a great loss.

 

 

 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Thought for the day: Purpose

You know we all want our life to have purpose. We all want what we do to have meaning in this life. I think it is what attracts us to institutions of work where the purpose is in the job descriptions, clearly stated in the vision, engraved above the door, and right before our eyes for constant reminding and affirmation whenever we need. But just because it is the job's purpose, it does not immediately follow that it is your purpose, that you will find your purpose, or any purpose, in it. Who has the firmer grip, who is more satisfied; the one who has sought out and found their purpose or the one who accepts the purpose given? One exists outside of tasks and the other is bound to them.

That's my thought for the day.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Springs of Grace

You know I used to be afraid that this couldn't be God. God could not be this gracious. Grace too good to be true. Freedom too easy. I was afraid that I had created a god that I liked, a god that fit in with what I wanted and how I wanted to live....but then again this wasn't any of my doing. I was content to be miserable for the rest of my life because, afterall, that was The Way. I was stolen away to another way of living, a way in which I had to learn to accept not a way that I conjured up. Who has the brain capacity to do that? Who has that kind of power over their mind? Nevertheless, I was afraid that I possessed that level of cunning and deception so as to create this god I was seeing, this God I was seeing.

But this year God's been bringing all these people into the clearing. People who, near and far, are seeing the same face of God I've been seeing, asking the same questions, challenging the same ideas, and experiencing the same grace, coming the to the same peaks and seeing the same sights.

It would be one thing if this was the popular teaching, but it isn't. It would be one thing if we were all under the same roof, but we're not. It would be one thing if we were all reading the same words and hearing the same talks, but we aren't.

We are people who have found springs of living water bubbling up from the same underground Source- a network of rivers beneath the surface connecting, fueling, and carrying us all. These springs are bursting up through the ground all over and I'm finding these springs in unlikely and holy people. I'm finding these springs in old friends, new friends, and strangers alike. I'm finding that they too tapped in, they too hear the song being sung in the distance, they too move to the "unforced rhythms of grace", they too are seekers and are finding treasures they long thought myth.

And that's how I know that it's real. That's how I know it's not just me and I'm not crazy and off course. That's how I know I am not caught up in some self-forged idolatry.

If this Christian life feels heavy to you, if you've ever wondered, "Is this really it?", if you've become frustrated with the church and its demands, if you are sick of trying harder, if you are spent on works, if you are burnt out, worn out, and tired...you are not alone. You are not crazy for questioning it all. You are not damned for your frustrations. You are not a dissappointment for your weariness. You are not off course. You are not alone here. There are springs all around you, underground sources waiting to be tapped into that will refresh and awaken you just as you are with all your doubts, frustrations, burdens, weaknesses, questions, and opinions.

There are people like Sarah Bessey, Micah J. Murray, Mandy Steward, Brennan Manning, Frederick Buechner, Graham Cook, Baxter Kruger, and so many others who get you. There are artists and songwriters and musicians all about you who speak this language like Foy Vance, Brooke Fraser, Mumford & Sons, Johnnyswim, Joe Pug, Ricky Kendall, Listener, Lord Huron, Michael Kiwanuka, Run River North and countless others. You may not fit in your home church anymore. You may not click with your former comany. But you are not abandoned. There's a whole slew of vagabonds waiting for you here and will join you on this winding path we call the strait and narrow.

 

Friday, May 2, 2014

Painting the Roses Red

In Wonderland there are two key ruling figures: the king and queen of hearts (there are in fact other kings and queens in Wonderland, but that is not relevant to our story here).

The Queen is a ghastly figure. She is harsh, vengeful, law-enforcing, her-way-or-the-highway kinda gal. If you don't do things her way, if you cross her, it's "Off with your head!" She is feared. She is obeyed. She is oppressive.

The king is a wimp. He is completely and utterly compliant to the Queen's wishes (moreso in the movie than in the book but that too is besides the point). He is a pacifist, a dear fellow, a doormat, and, although he is kind, he is uninvolved.

 

 

In Alice in Wonderland there is a scene where Alice comes upon 3 gardeners painting white roses red and singing, "Painting the roses red and many a tear we shed because we know they'll cease to grow, in fact, they'll soon be dead and yet we go ahead." They admit to painting to roses red out of self-preservation and fear of the Queen. Makes sense considering who the Queen is.

But who is the queen to us?

I have a theory: Either we view God as the queen figure and we view the Church as the king figure OR we view the Church as the queen figure and God as the pacifist king. Regardless of who/what holds which title, we feel the need to cover up the truth for appearance and appeasment sake.

There are truths in our lives, things that are what they are because they simple are. This could be anything from a secret dream, a worldview, a habbit, a hobby, to an opinion, and so on. But the Queen (whoever your queen may be) has set a standard saying, "This is what color roses should be. This is what I like, what I want, what I demand." And so we paint these truths, we mask them, so as to have the appearance of what is demanded, liked, esteemed, or wanted by our queen figure. We know they're really white roses underneath, but we're hoping it's enough to grant us a pass. But are we aware of what it's doing to the roses as the gardener's were? "Painting the roses red and many a tear we shed because we know they'll cease to grow, in fact, they'll soon be dead and yet we go ahead."

I can't be too specific here because we paint so many things to meet what is expected and demanded of us. Here's an example from my life:

I grew up wanting to be an actress and for many years I heeded and fed that desire. Then one year I felt like I was supposed to be a missionary and suddenly I didn't know what to do with my white rose. So I did what was demanded, esteemed, and wanted by my queenly figures; I put it on a lower shelf and painted it to look like what was expected of a Christian Actress. I painted it over and over until I lost intrest in this ghastly shade of compliance, abandoning it altogether. But it was God Who gave me my rose back and it was not remade in the demanded color, but it was gifted in the beautiful shade of white that it always was underneath the paint.

I met a guy one time who was DJing at some function and he had an incredible story of having been one of the most saught after DJ's in the state until he got saved and felt that he had to give all that up. He sold all his equipment and painted what was left of his roses red. Last I saw him, he was working on recovering his equipment and getting back to where he was musically before he "gave it all up for Jesus"; as if Jesus was asking him to give up his gift and his passion- no, that was his queen figure talking.

God is not the Queen of Hearts, nor should your church behave as one. And God is not some whimpy king in the background echoing the demands of your church. He loves white roses and He'll tell you so Himself.

 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

What I wish I had been taught

I remember sitting in youth group listening to a youth pastor reprimand the general exodus of young girls venturing into the Twilight movies so ecstatic and giddy to see whats-his-name with his shirt off. He wasn't speaking against the people but the act, the "lust"- the sin behind it. As I look back I remember many a similar talks given.

I remember being passionately dissuaded from seeing certain movies, listening to music that wasn't labeled as "Christian" or "worship", for saying certain words, and for various other assumed thoughts and inclinations; to the point of beliving it to be a sin to do so. I remember also feeling shamed for not doing certain things; for not reading my Bible enough, for not memorizing enough of it, for not evangelizing enough, discipling enough, being descipled enough...

Looking back I find so much emphasis put on my actions, be it what I was doing or what I was abstaining from. But we look to the actions to tell us about the heart don't we? Just as we look to the fruit to inform us about the tree. And as a leader, how else are you supposed to measure and asses the "spiritual health" of your young congregation? Emphasizing censorship, boundaries, and rules while promoting activities to do within that given framework is certainly one way of doing it and it's certainly a favored way, but I wish there had been another way offered...not just to me but to all of us, students and leaders alike. And besides, any farmer will tell you that it's not the fruit that you farm, but the soil; for if you have good soil, good fruit will naturally follow.

We were told over and over again what to do and what not to do, but we were never told why. Why should we do this? Why shouldn't we do that? Perhaps "why" seemed like too big a question for such immature minds and hearts to tackle or unravel. But if you ask "Why?" enough you can trace it all the way to the heart of the matter and find with it the true, unadulterated, captivating reasons that inspire and motivate an obedience driven by a personal understanding (a revelation); either that or you'll find reasons to abandon the commands and obligations presented to you- there too lie revelations, truth, and obedience.

But now I want to know, why was it such a big deal that the girls were giddy over a boy's shirtless body? Is that really the bigger issue? Is that really what the minds and hearts of youth need to understand? Is that such a fundamental issue that you would rather spend your efforts battling against that "lust" you see rather than spend your efforts making sure they fully knew they were loved and accepted despite it all?

Why was behavior prioritized over belonging?

Or is it for the youth to behave so that they may belong as adults? Because that is most definitely the message I felt on the receiving end: Let the youth learn how to behave so that when they are adults they will then belong because they know how to behave. But by then the rules have grown so numerous, the restrictions and the duties so many, that you can barely see the God to Whom you belong; if, by then, you still want Him at all.

And so as adults we must spend many a seasons unlearning and deconstructing our fortress, until we can see Him again. And then we must spend many a seasons more learning freedom and grace, love and acceptance perhaps for the first time. We must spend all this time being liberated from the former enforced necessity of performance to finally believe in and trust in a great belonging so freely given.

Why, at our most impressionable state, were we trained for works instead of being molded by grace?

I think maybe many were/are afraid that grace wouldn't get us to where we needed to be. I think many doubted/doubt the strength and ability of grace to shape and mold acceptable Christians out of young wandering souls. But if not grace then what? What, if not grace, binds our wandering hearts to Him? What, if not grace, invites us, strengthens us, compels us, sustains us, nurtures us, and even carries us in this life and living it?

So much time spent instructing a sappling on the fruit it must grow instead of making sure it had everything it needed to grow; that while simply being and receiving the good things laid out for its health and nourishment, it may naturally grow into a thriving living tree.

Why is the evidence of performance a trusted remedy and grace a mystic potion? Love and grace have the power to change all if only we would be allowed to soak in it. If only we trusted it enough to be raised in it.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Offense

In my past, and probably still lingering in my present, I have set a many a bridges on fire with flames of offense. I know I've offended a lot of people in my life. It's been a long journey getting me to accept and embrace the "grays" in myself, let alone in others, when for so long it was all so black and white. That black and white perception combined with my lifelong struggle against holding my tongue, of course, did more than rub people the wrong way, in many cases, it left them scalped and in need of skin-graphs. lol

But, that was a long time ago. Thankfully, I'm not so quick to pass judgement anymore. I take great pride in the fact that it takes a lot to shock me. People tell me they feel safe around me because they know they won't be judged or looked down upon. I can't tell you how wonderful and grateful that makes me feel.

I'm sure I still am offending people. And it really can't be helped. We'll always be offending someone. It's just funny how the tables of offense have turned in my life. Before, I think I was offending everybody; "saved", "unsaved", it didn't matter. But, now it seems the people I offend more often than not are people in the church; or maybe I should say, "the people that are offended by me..."

I say naughty words. I drink. I smoke cigars and hookah. I make sexual jokes. I watched Magic Mike! And if that wasn't enough to damn me, I unabashedly wrestle with and dissect my religion; asking heretical questions like, "Why?" Clearly I've got a timeshare in Hades right next door to Mephistopheles.

But even though I may hold some decided opinions about why I do what I do and don't do what I don't, it's not put out there to ostracize; it's my life, it's who I am, but even then it's not something I throw out there and force you to accept. I'm not intentionally looking to offend people. Infact, because of my past offenses, I am very careful to try not to. Put simply, if I feel comfortable and safe around you, I'll act comfortable around you and you'll see the me that my folks see, my family sees, and my friends see.

We're all like that. Our souls are like hermit crabs looking for safe places to reveal ourselves and be free. And if we lived in a perfect world, there would only be safe places- there would be no need to hide.

Recently I was around some people that made me go back in my shell. I had started to feel really comfortable around them and then some off-hand comments were made about a certain "swear word" being said (not by me oddly enough). The message that comment sent to me was, "This is not a safe place." All the sudden my mesh filters are up and I'm sifting through thoughts and reactions carefully deciding what should pass through and what I should keep to myself; the TSA invaded my mind. It made me feel incredibly lonely and it lingers still.

And it's not just this one incident, there are countless others and they are happening all the time to all sorts of people. And yes there will always be someone who is offended. And yes, I agree, Jesus did offend people. And yes, I'd agree further that Truth is offensive just as light is offensive to the dark. YES, YES, YES. Okay.

There is so much irony in the things that offend Christian people and how easy it is to do it. A group of passionate evangelist types getting offended at how I talk...A group of zealous advocates against human-trafficking getting offended by vulgarity, nudity, or things of a sexual nature...Another group getting offended by questions...and so on and so on. To myself I think, "God, do they really know what they doing or what they're getting into? You're getting offended at me?? and I'm on your team! How the hell do you intend on "reaching" all us heathens exactly?" Or, "I'm sorry do you have any idea what kind of scene you are entering? You want to go into redlight districts to rescue girls caught in sex-slavery and you are disgusted at the faint sex scene in that movie?! Do you think they'll find your shock and disgust inviting??".....And then sometimes I just think, "Screw you and all your types!"

One of the kindest things God ever revealed to me was that He does not get offended by me. 'He sees me and He knows me and He loves me through and through.' And that makes me feel so safe and warm, so loved and accepted, so free and light. I can just be me and I don't have to worry about bullshit filters with Him because there's no filter that can hide my true thoughts and feelings from Him anyway. And because I don't have the hassle of going through security and customs and x-rays with Him, we can just get right to the point and avoid all the rigmarole. *insert note of praise for the TSA drenched in bitter sarcasm* It is such a comfort to know that I cannot ever shock Him, no matter what I conjur.

And I just think that if God can be so graciously unoffended, why do we (the people of God) line our hearts with offense that only pushes people further away from us and us further away from them? Maybe if we believed in that kind of God more people would feel like they belong with Him afterall.

And maybe I'm totally off. Maybe I've offended you.

At any rate, I'm working on it.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

"We are all of us mad here"

Have you ever read "Alice in Wonderland" by Lewis Carroll? My faith has lead me to that classic tale recently. Of course we've all probably seen the movie, but the movie can be so distracting; the silliness, the songs, the graphics all stealing away from the story. Well surely you remember The Mad Hatter; his story was sadly cheapened, lost amidst the giddiness and whimsy. But read it now:

The poor Mad Hatter, we've had no idea how akin to him we are always having written him off as nonsense when he is infact a mirror.

The Mad Hatter believed that he had, in a way, offended Time and was therefore cursed, doomed, confined, sentenced to remain where he was doing the same thing until Time had decided the Hatter was pardoned.

It drove him mad. It drove them all mad; being stuck in the same place and time, waiting for Time himself to be appeased- waiting to be freed.

Have we not also believed that we have offended Time and thusly we are likewise sentenced to spending this life in a perpetual state of (you can fill in the blank, but I'll fill in mine with servitude and sacrifice.)

How often we damn ourselves to infinite merry-go-rounds of penitence, desperately trying, waiting, and hoping to be pardoned. We think if we slip up, we will offend Time further and possibly increase our vague sentence.

We have made ourselves busy with work that we think we must do and we are going mad for it. We keep moving round, no time to clean up, no freedom to be otherwise occupied or moved.

You may say it is still nonsense, just trifles, but even Lewis Carroll noted, "'Tut, tut, child!' said the Duchess. 'Everythings got a moral if only you can find it.'"

 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Making Martyrs

These were some of my most treasured quotes. They were mantras from another life, another worldview, another theology...The theme being that I am of less importance, my wants, my pain, my circumstances, my desires, my health, my state of being is of less importance compared to all that is required of me as a "privileged" daughter of God. It is a kind of thinking that invites pain, struggle, and agony as way of spiritual enhancement; a way of rising in the ranks of God's "called"; believing that only the strongest and most devoted can survive such circumstances and so you constantly test yourself by diving in and welcoming the Grim Reaper of faith.

I used to have nightmares, at the time I thought they were dreams, on a regular basis about me being killed for my faith. I just knew I was going to be martyred, a bloody gruesome death, for my beliefs. I used to think I was being prepared for it. I had no doubts about this. It was my little dark secret I kept within me. I unavoidably believed that my God was leading me to this honorable death.

You know they say that dreams are the mind's way of processing information that's not been fully processed in the wakened state. And how could I not be dreaming about such things when the infiltrating doctrine being fed me is of such monstrosity? It's sick. I read through my past journals and I read how this type of thinking devoured my thoughts and how I had even learned to think like I had been taught to think. Where was Stephanie Diane Gray in all this? What what she really thinking back then?

The sad truth is I don't think she was allowed to think back then. I don't think she was heard. Because the truth is that she was being killed for her faith. My beliefs, my way of thinking, was killing every God-given unique thing about me, turning me into a type-cast I had been taught to honor and admire. Stephanie was being martyred because of her beliefs and it was her beliefs that were killing her- beating and bruising her identity until there was no life left there.

And you know who saved me? The God I used to believe wanted me dead. I didn't know how wrong I had been about Him until He rescued me from that way of living. I hardly knew Him at all. And I feel as though I have been saved, truly saved, maybe for the first time. Who knows. But, having been raised in the church, these words, "I once was lost but now am found. Was blind, but now I see." finally aren't just words anymore- they finally are personal.

It is scary to me how impressionable the mind is and what effects those impressions take on life and living. It scares the ever-loving-shit out of me. It's easy to see how an idea can transform into something like the Holocaust; you hammer an idea into people's heads until they believe it's true, before long anything can happen. And I wonder, what does this self-depreciating Christianity look like in 10 years? Will there be any soul left to salvage? Or will we all have killed ourselves for our style of faith?

 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

She

Picture this scene:

On one side you've got Jesus, on the other side you've got a woman with a trash can in her hands. In her trash can is all sorts of rubbish and junk. She's aware of its stench, its contents, its appearance, its weight, its filth, etc; it is the reason she is on one side and He is on the other. In her mind, she can't approach Him until she's cleaned up this rubbish. In her mind, this rubbish is why He "won't" and "can't" approach her. But here He comes. She's shouting, "Unclean!" Letting Him know to keep His distance, she's not clean enough yet. She's so embarrassed and ashamed as He comes closer. In her mind, His eyes will be fixated on the filth between them. But she's wrong. His eyes are locked on her. And without shifting His gaze He gently takes the trash can, she's too humiliated at this point to care what He does now, and He flings it's contents in the air, spreading the trash on the ground all about them. She can't even look at Him now. Her shame is complete, she thinks. She buries her face in her hands, unable to face her garbage and her "Exposer". But to her suprise, He invites her to dance. And in the midst of all her rubbish and on top of all her garbage they dance. He never takes His eyes off her. Slowly she loosens up. Slowly she begins to trust Him. Slowly she begins to trust herself. Slowly the rubbish is reduced to dust. Slowly she begins to realize that what He was after wasn't really a "what" at all, it was a "who" and it was her.

 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

I once carried a burden...

I once carried a burden. It was the sum mount of my convictions, my responsibilities, my sacrifices, my duties, my calling. It was this massive heavy heap that I carried, convinced it was my lot- my God-given assignment to bear. It was excrutiating and I knew it. It was killing me and I could feel it.

My spirit was cracking under the extreme weight of it all, but how could I cave? This was what I believed to be the summit of life. This is what it meant to follow Him. Yes it hurts. Yes it's killing me and crushing me. But isn't it supposed to? Isn't that the point? We follow Him, we serve Him, till we are reduced to dust and ashes for His glory?

Well that's what I thought. It's hard. It's supposed to be hard. It's not supposed to be easy. Right?

Right?

Was that bit about "My yoke is easy and my burden is light.", was that just a joke? Or was that true and I'm just not there yet? Am I just so in the way, so displeasing to You, so undeserving, that I'm just not ready for light and easy? Or maybe I'm just too weak and I need to be stronger and then it will be easy and then it will feel light. Yes! I must be stronger. It's my fault. Forgive me Lord for being so weak and selfish.

One day a man of God came to where I was living and working and he instructed us to go out and find an object that we felt like we were supposed to bring to the service He was arranging for us. For reasons unknown to me I brought a car tire. When I came into the room I found that he had created a wall of chairs, a barrier of sorts, and we were going to climb over it using our object. I thought it over and over and all I could figure was that the tire symbolized for me to keep going, that the tire was my part that I was to carry. So I heaved the tire up, held it over my head, and began to take the hard steps to cross the barrier. But it was heavy. My arms began shaking, my knees began to buckle. I'm struggling not only to hold it up, but to stand firm and not tumble over. I begin praying, "God I'll keep going and I'll do my part because I'm not it..." I'm on the edge of breaking, telling myself to be stronger crying out, "Your yoke is easy and your burden is light." as if saying it will somehow defy the laws of weight and gravity and alter the makeup of this burden and/or my abilities....

And then the man of God came over to me and said, "This is too heavy for you to carry and you're strong so you'll grit your teeth and do it, but wheels are made to carry and you just need to roll with it." So I started over. I climbed back down the barrier and faced it again, but this time I simply rolled the tire to the other side, not up and over mind you, but on the ground where it should be. And then I felt free to plainly climb over the barrier. It felt easy and it felt light.

I wish to God I could understand why we do this to ourselves. Why we make light things heavy and easy things hard. Why we make it impossible for us to be well. Why we think life is always about dying and love always about denial. I wish I could understand why we take tires and carry them instead of letting them carry us. I wish I could understand why we hear words like, "try harder" but we are deaf to words like, "rest" and "easy". I wish to God I knew why myself and my kin are such damn masochists; why we hurt ourselves and insist that it's godliness.

I wish there was a clear enemy to blame. I've tried blaming the Church. I've tried blaming pastors and leaders. I've tried blaming religion and culture. I've tried blaming the devil and I've tried blaming myself. And every time I come up lacking and unsatisfied. I have only found that there is no justice down that path, no resolution to be found there.

So without knowing why, I simply know that we do. We do this to ourselves and call it God.

We have been convinced that faith merits grace when grace is in fact the current upon which faith is simply carried. We, in so many ways, are like little children carrying buckets down to the river, filling them up, only to carry them up hill, dump out the contents and repeat our arduous acts of penitence.

There is no trick. There is no catch. His burden is easy and His yoke is light. And if it is not my friend, then it is not His but your own that you carry.

Would you roll with it? Would you stop carrying the tide and let the tide carry you?