a recovering evangelical writes about homosexuality

I sit here at the computer, but my fingers don’t move. They are still, though my heart beats rapidly. I have wanted to write this since June 26th of this year, when a chasm already existent in America deepened to the lava core. But to be honest, I have been afraid: How many people in my life will defriend me for this post? How will I write this? How much questioning of my soul’s state will I bear? How do I even say what I think in any articulate or assertive manner? And then I was invited by the July 2015 synchroblog to write about gay marriage. A Divine Nudge. After all, what is writing if not a dangerous exploration?

I hope this dangerous exploration is sanctified by the truest Love.

Growing up, those of homosexual preferences were 1, foreign and/or 2, the butt of jovial jokes and insensitive insults. But this was out of ignorance, not fear or condemnation. That all shifted when I dove heavily into a strict, evangelical, conservative church during my formative years. The beneficial thing about such a context was I had very little decisions to make based on my own opinion. The toxic thing about such a context was I had very little decisions to make based on my own opinion. And so the decision, as ordained by the Words we leveraged to speak the words we declared as “the one true and only way,” was that to be homosexual was a sin: sad at best, disgusting at worst. Abominable.

I still cringe typing that. (Of course, we loved the sinner, even though we hated the sin.)

What I learned during that time of my life is undeniable in its treasure: discipline and self-control, true and authentic friendship, the art of leading, how to set apart sacred times for the Sacred, the skills of analysis and teaching that analysis, the delineation between superficial vs. deep, passion, social skills, humble service, etc. However, what I absorbed during that time is a subtle poison from which I’m still trying to detox:

  • Many Christian systems manipulate the bible to get what they want…and to feel good–or in true martyrdom, to feel guilty–about it. The fancy-pants term for this is proof-texting. This is the ability to condemn homosexuality while still allowing women to speak in church. This is the ability to declare one set of rules as softened by context (the Old Testament) while adhering to another set of rules more rigorously (the New Testament). This is the ability of a church to expect tithing while dismissing the need to walk around wounded in penance with one eye or one hand.  This sounds like: “Jesus was speaking metaphorically.” “Revelation is an allegory.” “Follow the spirit of the law, not the letter.” “It was a different time then.” “Pay attention to the audience.” “Paul was too radical.” “Now we have the Holy Spirit.” This looks like a myriad of Christian factions, each picking and choosing what’s important to them and then standing in self-righteous arrogance above the other “poor Christians” who just don’t get it. (This frightening lesson is exactly why I did no research in the bible, or outside of it about it, in order to throw around quotes and scriptures in this blog to back up what I’m saying. That was not easy for me, as this is still deeply ingrained.)
  • Many Christian systems judge the obvious sins on a much harsher scale as a way to distract from the internal, insidious “smaller” sins. How dare you love another man, look at porn, sleep around, and get drunk! That is murder against God. But meanwhile, please go ahead and oppress your wife, ignore your children, overeat, think in your heart evil things, speak half-truths, manipulate people to feel powerful, walk past those hurting, cheat on your taxes, talk shit about people on social media, change spouses like underwear, horde your wealth, envy the covers of Sports Illustrated and People, crave approval and advancement, and throw trash on the ground!

And we wonder why people avoid the church like the plague and leave it like a convict released from jail. I did, but I’m still recovering. I’m still wondering. I’m still questioning. I’m still healing. But I’m also still praying and seeking God. And what I have discovered on my journey as of late is that:

God. is. Love.

Where there is Love, there is God.

And so, a faithful and devout christian, who is full of judgmental hate towards something they have little experience with, well… where is the Love?

Meanwhile, a lesbian couple adopts a homeless and unwanted child, eager to give generously of their life and heart, well, there is the Love.

But, just to be clear, I’m not making blanket statements. I am DONE with that.

And so, a faithful and devout Christian, who is full of service towards the poor and spends Sunday mornings on the street passing out sandwiches, humbly and sincerely, well…there is the Love.

Meanwhile, a gay man misuses his position of power to lull in little children to his game of perversion, well…where is the love?

We are just people, looking for Love. We are all just humans, searching for Love.

So do I support gay marriage? No.

I support the marriage of two people, two humans, looking to get and give Love.

And in that place of Love, there is God. And ultimately, THAT is the “side” I want to be on.

***Other voices & opinions on this topic. Please note these posts are a part of the conversation, but not necessarily a part of my conviction.***

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everyday easters

It’s been a rough couple of weeks around these here parts. Dave has been busy focusing on some consuming work projects; our house is in a constant state of remodeling flux; work for me is picking up with both the testing and senior season; we’ve both been sick. This all adds up to a cacophonous version of the song “Strangers in the Night.” Like two ships that can’t quite find the harbor at the same time, Dave and I have been feeling very disconnected from each other as of late.

And so Friday, we remedied that. We spent the day devoted to each other. Less phones and internet, more face time. Less TV, more living.

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We tried new restaurants.

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We ran. And I managed to get in a few balancing postures.

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We checked out a new brewery.

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We battled on the bowling lanes.

We sat, facing each other, and get this, talked. Like new lovers do. Like best friends do. Like old-fashioned married people do. Part of what we talked about were assessments of our current status, as a couple and as separate human beings. We came up with a plan to tend to our own souls, as well as reconnect and stay that way. We laughed, we remembered, we made new memories. It was a good day. It was a resurrection.

Many Christians will wake up tomorrow (or in some parts of the world, this already happened), and they will go to church to celebrate another kind of resurrection, a much more dramatic resurrection: Jesus’. The prevalent idea is that two-thousand and fifteen years ago, a sun-burnt, sand-blown and dove-blessed God-man lived, loved, died, and then was raised–raised (he needs no helping verb)–from the dead, leaving stones unrolled and surprises unfurled. Whether this is the actual timing, or the actual way the story went, what I do truly believe without a doubt is that I serve a God of resurrections. A God who believes in perpetual transitions into new glories. A God never defeated, but always abounding in incredulous second-chances. And third… A God who wildly abandons the norms and conventions of ordinary with a flair for the extraordinary, for the special, for the miracle.

So… then… where does that leave little ol’ human me? Precisely where I want to be, where my faith and hope rests: that e’ry day, all day (YOLO), for the dirty underdog and bejeweled prince alike, there are opportunities for resurrection–everyday easters. Just like with Dave and I. We were in a microscopic tomb of our own, as all married couples are at varied intervals. But, thank God, we didn’t have to stay there. We could roll the stone away, step out into the sunshine with beer in our hands and gratitude in our hearts, and begin anew. And countless times every day, at home or at work, with my own heart or with others’, stones roll away revealing such resurrections. With the new morning sun. With forgiveness instead of bitterness. With honesty instead of gossip. With courage instead of complacency. With relentless love instead of self-seeking transactions. With discipline and honor instead of indulgence and short-sighted pleasure. With thankfulness instead of complaint.

As I think about the wonder of this all, I cannot help but ponder the idea of “everlasting life”…you know, that thing that is dangled before converts like competing greyhounds at the track. Have we misinterpreted everlasting life? Instead of a pie-in-the-sky fairyland of clouds and trumpets, perhaps it’s something much more simple, and much more tangible, and much more now, and much more mundane. Perhaps the best part of a life with the resurrected Jesus is that we live perpetually in a state of resurrection. Everyday=New. Everyday=Heaven. Everyday=Easter. Everyday=Glory. After all, if it’s everlasting, doesn’t that mean it’s supposed to have started already?

I wanna live that way. Don’t you?

present to the I AM

To be mindful is to be present. To be present is to be fully engaged in the only life we have been gifted. In this present moment, we meet God, who names Himself “I AM”–not I was or I will be, but rather I AM, in this moment alone, here, now, the only moment available.

A lot of the Bible speaks of adhering to God based on his past credentials. His street-cred-resume: “great is His faithfulness” and “remember when He” and “the God of your ancestors” is a reoccurring trope throughout the Old Testament. The implication here is not to be here, now, with God, but to rely on a manifested-God of other people and other places and other times.

The other implication–just as dangerous–is the reliance on God based on His future promises. These bubble to the surface repeatedly in the New Testament: “you will be saved” and “will supply all your needs” and “you will know as you have been known.” In these, I rely more on what I’ll get from God, than who we are together, here, now.

But the more I’ve been focusing on being mindful in the present moment, the more I’ve come to see how being with God, here, now, is the litmus test for our relationship and my faith in Him. Can I worship in this moment, regardless of what came before or what will follow? Can I be grateful here, now, instead of relying on past or future revelations? Can I lean into both beauty and brutality, unsure of what influences shape or outcomes follow the here, the now? Can I know God only as He reveals Himself to me, in this present moment, here, now, rather than through others’ tainted histories or contextual comforts? Can I let God, here, now, just be I AM, instead of I was, or I will be?

Here, now, I say yes. And for each here, each now, an ineffable myriad more yeses.

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the soul’s greatest threat: ADD

This little disease epidemic is popping up everywhere. In disgruntled hearts. In ungrateful mouths. In slanderous conversations. In the broken public education system. Beneath the broken hearts of Christians.  On job (dis)satisfaction surveys. At restaurants. In my soul.

ADD: Attentive to Deficit Disorder.

I first learned about ADD–though not known by that name yet, well, because I didn’t invent it yet :)–when getting my Master’s in Cultural and Linguistic Diversity in Education. For students in our system who are emerging bilinguals, it is common to focus on what they lack (a foundation in English, parents who speak English, comfort navigating the American schooling principles, background knowledge, etc) rather than what they offer (flexible cognition, tenacity, diversity, varied background knowledge, a 21st century skill, etc). This deficit lens immediately and perpetually harms their potential–both for heart and mind learning in the classroom.

But ADD reaches into the adult hallways as well. Lingering in the air of my school lately is a heavy tension surrounding feedback. Teachers–me included–feel like there shouldn’t always have to be a next step. Can we just celebrate the good that’s going on in our classrooms? Just once? Of course, this stifling air is pouring in from beyond the walls of our building–a critical society of politicians and businessmen who in their ADD see fit to criticize our profession and demean our judgment. (Can I get a next step for them!?)

I saw and felt ADD in my Mom too. No matter what my Dad did, it wasn’t enough for her. No one at work could live up to her standards. We, her kids, strained to breath in the shadow of her martyrdom-to-negativity, encapsulated by her rally cry: “When it rains, it pours.”

Until she got breast cancer. The disease stopped her in her tracks, rewrote her map, and rerouted her direction. Did she become perfect? No, but her rally cry changed to “Well, I can’t complain; I’ve been blessed.” This will forever be one of the traits I admire most in my Mom: what should have proved to her that “when it rains, it pours” became a transition into a heart and life of thanksgiving. Even when she got cancer again, and then again, she declared her life as blessed.

Her prescription for ADD? Gratitude.

And this is without her earmarking The Secret or subscribing to “The Law of Attraction” or reading Ernest Holmes, who writes in This Thing Called You:

The barriers between you and your greater good are not barriers in themselves. They are things of thoughts. It is because of this that all things are possible to faith. Jesus summed up the whole proposition when he said, “It is done unto you as you believe.” In interpreting this saying, however, you must pause after the word as. Think about its meaning and you will discover that he was saying that life not only responds to your belief, it responds after the manner of your believing, as you believe. It is like a mirror reflecting the image of your belief.

As you believe.

Without using such succinct language, I’ve long pondered this with those closest to me. We’ve witnessed people in our lives with ADD: they never see good; they’re always complaining; their smiles are never deep; every good story has a “but” or an “if;” they seek commiseration from those around them; they are martyrs; they complain without changing; their conversations are tainted with passive-aggressiveness; they tear others down so they can feel better about their lives; they always play the victim but then conclude, deep-sighing “but, I’m okay.”

And as they believe, they just can’t catch a break, the sh** just keeps hitting the fan, spinning wildly above their heads on high, splintering the crap into tiny germs of toxic thinking that attracts more toxicity.

As they believe.

As you believe.

As I believe. This could be me. On my worst days, it is me, suffering from and for ADD. But I refuse to stay in this minefield-mindplace.

And just like my Mom learned and lived, I take my ADD medicine: gratitude.

My prescription as of late involves the delicious and divine words of of Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts:

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At the deepest diagnostic level of ADD is the distinction made by Tim O’Brien between the happening-truth and the story-truth. The events in my life are the truth, the happening-truth, the facts. But how I view them, how I count them and name them and interpret them, that’s the story-truth. Regardless of the events, I can tell the story however I want. I have that power, that choice, that authorship. Do I tell my story slanted with sorrow, burdened by ADD’s symptoms? Or do I tell my story, sanctified by sincere gratitude?

My Mom died last year. That is the happening-truth. But how do I tell that story? My Mom died too suddenly and how dare God do that?! or My Mom got what she wished, to end her life with her dignity in tact, dependent on no one, so thank you God! I choose the latter. Thank you. Again and again I choose the latter. Thank you. I refuse to succumb to the powerful hold of ADD.

My story-truths will be of gratitude, of thanksgiving, of blessing, as I believe.

Disclaimer: It would be negligent of me to conclude without a warning about the side-effects of ADD’s treatment plan of thanksgiving: DDD– denial of deficit disorder. There is a subtle but significant difference between positivity and faithfulness, between denial and gratitude. Positivity and denial leave a person consumed with “having to be happy” regardless of the happening-truth. They painfully push on (of course never on the surface, where there is always a smile) without the deep reflection and story-telling necessary to treat ADD. On the other hand, faithful and grateful people understand the severity of their happening-truths, while still instead scripting a story-truth of thanksgiving.

present. thankful.

bc90113e29ef351de769933bf5fbbb79Early in the lonely darkness, I wake this morning with a heavy heart; how can the absence of Something, Someone weigh so much? As in yoga, I will not fight this pain’s strain; I will lean into it. I will stay present in the sorrow, to the grief. And even in this, I will give thanks. Yes because it’s a holiday, but also because it’s a holy way.

  1. Though I don’t understand it fully nor embrace it completely, grace is more powerful than condemnation, compassion truer than judgment. The Divine, at the deepest core and at the wildest edges, is Love. For this, I thank God.
  2.  I live in a cozy house in the mountains, on a wildlife corridor–a glory this suburban flat-lander only imagined in daydreams. This house, once another’s outdated debt, has been made our beautiful home by my husband’s raw talent. For this, I thank God.
  3. I live and laugh with my best friend, a man of generosity, grace, strength, humility, adventure, athleticism, authenticity, wildness, industrialism, honor, spirituality, intelligence…love. For this, I thank God.
  4. I had a special relationship with my Dad. From playgrounds to cardinals to Frank Sinatra and Yanni to walks to movies, our spirits were woven together. Yesterday in the car, just like him, I whistled along and sang off-tune to a Christmas song. In his absence, he was with me in that car, in that moment. For this, I thank God.
  5. I had a special connection with my Mom. Our stories were written from the same words. When those stories are told now, in her absence, it is not only me–it is my husband. As we threw out bacon grease this week, we looked at each other knowingly, remembering and resurrecting Mom’s conniption fit at such a waste. His relationship with my Mom was a rare and precious gift, now a majestic river bird hovering above and between our love. For this, I thank God.
  6. Though my parents are gone, the utterance of “Mom” and “Dad” still floats up from my heart to glide across my lips. Dave’s parents hold a special place in my life–far greater than the empty label of in-laws. For this, I thank God.
  7. I go to work every day alongside people who fight for social justice. I teach students who teach me. I gift the power of words through stories that matter. My job is a ministry of empowerment for which I am equipped. For this, I thank God.
  8. My sister gets me. We are cut from the same cloth. Reunited by grief, our friendship’s foundation has solidified. For this, I thank God.
  9. I have friends of the soul variety. Tammy, who has been beside me and inside my spirit since I was 14. Laina, who when I am with, listening to her stories, makes me feel like I’m with my Mom. Libbi, who gifts me with the call to presence. These are but one small glint of a massive web of glittering connections spun around me. For this, I thank God.
  10. My body is strong and capable. My legs can take me to the hidden heights of the Rocky Mountains; my spine can bend and bow into peaceful poses of meditation; my lungs can fuel me through 13.1 miserably momentous miles. For this, I thank God.

Like beads on a Mala, I count my blessings. There are far more than this list; there are far more than I recognize with my eyes or name with my voice. For this, for the unseen and the unnamed, I thank God.

can I get a DOCTOR!?

If the church is the Body of Christ, then who/what is the doctor? So often symptoms and diseases and disabilities ferment inside the Body, while all the cells in the neck get together and discuss how the arm should respond, or the toes wiggle about and wonder what the stomach is doing up there anyway with all that space. Internal accusations feed on each other like a misinformed cancer. Incestuous, inside attempts at healing fail, because, well, sometimes “I need a doctor to bring me back to life,” as Eminem sings (raps?).

The media as of late has had a feeding frenzy on the bacteria of the Body. From Mark Driscoll to Ricky Sinclair to Ernest Angley, stories of scandal abound. And I think about my own life, and the life of friends and family I love, who also have self-amputated from the Body to prevent their own decay.  In response to these stories, mini to mega, my Synchroblogging friends have put out these questions:

…what would it look like for the Church as a whole when abusive leaders are held accountable and then are reconciled? How do we do that in such a way as to let victims be heard and redemption be the end goal? What does redemption and/or reconciliation look like in real life? What does grace look like in these situations?

Stay tuned for a link list at the bottom for others’ responses to these questions. I’d like to respond with these thoughts:

  • First and foremost, the Body needs to see a doctor. And not an internal doctor. An external doctor. An objective but wise counsel who can offer both a diagnosis and a treatment plan. In my opinion, there is no better healer to look to than the Native Americans, who have been practicing peacemaking circles long before Restorative Justice became latest alternative trend. What are the advantages of this? First and foremost, it is grounded in the idea that justice arises best from a strong sense of value for a unified community. And if that is not the ideal body type for the church, I don’t know what is. If a leader abuses his power (why did I automatically write “he” there?), that leader must sit in a circle with those traumatized by that abuse. The circle needs to discuss these questions: what happened, who was harmed, who is at fault, and who needs to repair what and in what manner, and how can the relationship be restored. It should be raw, authentic, messy, emotional, cathartic, brutal in honesty…but ultimately healing. And since it is a peacemaking circle, it may need to occur again and again, endless, in a cycle of courageous conversations that confront the illnesses in the Body. In fact, the Body should be taking regular doses of these supplements: a community connected by critical but compassionate conversations. These kinds of circles blur the lines between the leader and the led. These kinds of circles demystify the portrayal of perfection that runs rampant in the Body. These kinds of circles prevent the common responses of the body: turning a blind eye to the “sinner” or, worst, turning a back on the “sinner.” These kinds of circles prevent a mere public apology from the pulpit without weight and instead promote responsibility and repentance. These kinds of circles level the playing ground so that what is glorified is service and not supremacy. These kinds of circles foster raw revelations of the heart rather than painted portraits.

As I’ve thought about this post though, what my mind has fed on has not been the response to abuse in the church, but rather the proactive measures that should be taken. This is the kind of preventative medicine I would prescribe for the Body.

  • Leaders in the Body should not act nor be treated like soldiers of a higher rank. If we are a Body, than ALL of our parts matter. It is about how we work together, not in isolation in our awesomeness.  The flexing bicep might be more flashy, but ultimately without the anus’ expulsion of feces… well you get the point. Each part matters equally if not identically. As I write this, I am reminded of the story of David’s sin. Of course, we wonder how God and the Isrealites responded to his sin (probably as did the Old Testament Times, the media of the day; I can see the headline now: A Sexy Bath With Bathsheba: David’s Fall). But ultimately, what could have prevented this illness of the Body is David getting out of his comfy house of leadership and into the battle:

In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Isreal…But David remained at Jerusalem. 

  • This brings me to my second dose of preventative medicine–the Body should not adhere to any of the prototypes prevalent in society. It should not look like a corporation; it should not look like a music venue; it should not be a well-oiled machine. It is a community, and by nature a community is messy. There is vulnerability, there is hurt and pain, there is reconciliation. There shouldn’t be PR, unless we’re talking personal responsibility. There shouldn’t be concern with an image, unless it’s “how does this apron look on me at the soup kitchen?” And of course, any of the leaders could answer that question, because they are in it, up to their eyeballs, fighting and lighting the world with their action and not just their polished words and glamorous power points.

It saddens my soul to watch the world paint an image of the church as a broken, abusive, toxic, profitable performance. It breaks my heart, more so, to know this is grounded is founded evidence. But I come back to the idea of resurrection. As the Body, we are risen. We can shine. We can love. We can restore.

I end in prayer, the only thing left to say:

May the Body heal…itself, the world.

St. Thomas Aquinas

To Read More Synchroblog Responses about This Topic:

GOD–the Almighty Racist and Misogynist: a laywoman wrestles with how to interpret the Bible

The original witch hunt.

Women on a laundry list of “plunder”–well, only virgins. The sexually experienced were just massacred. 

Territorial racism.

Institutionalized slavery.

Unjust punishment.  

These are the footprints in the sand of an Old Testament God who is temperamental, severe…and let’s just say, not a God I want to be like or serve. Is this my God?

Or is this a god as revealed through the cultural, historical, and economical lens of the times?

I have been slowly working my way through the Bible this year. Many mornings I listen to an audio version in the car on the way to work. Stories of slaughter, sacrifice, sexism, slavery, severity swing in the car’s space like a noose.

I have been taught to hold high on a pedestal the idea that all Scripture is God-breathed. The Bible is the faultless word of God. His Spirit has protected its delivery. I am not a Bible scholar, but I just can’t buy this. I cannot bring to the center of my commoner’s faith the conviction that God is cruel; I. just. can’t. Or I won’t.

One of my favorite books to teach is The Things They Carried. Through it, I can stress to my students–and to myself–the importance of story-truth versus happening-truth.

I want you to know why story-truth is truer sometimes than happening-truth.

A thing may happen and be a total lie; another thing may not happen and be truer than the truth.

And this is what I hold onto as I wrestle with the way God is portrayed through Scripture. Ultimately, it is not about facts or events or data… it is about the truth behind the story. And this truth can exist even in a lie. Just as Grace told her Mom on The Good Wife:

I think of it like poetry… it doesn’t have to be literally accurate, but it’s true.

So, then, what is the story-truth?

  • God is what we need:
    • When the Israelites were in danger of disease: let there be laws about sanitation, eating, purification, etc.
    • When the Israelites were frustrated with Pharaoh: let it be said that God hardened his heart.
    • When the Israelites needed to expand and enlarge their territory and progeny: let there be many wives and concubines as well as savage war.
    • When the people needed motivation: let there be a harsh Judge for sinners and their successors.
    • When the people needed a second-chance: let there be Mercy.
  • God’s story (HISstory) is told through the lens and with the language of the current culture:
    • In the Old Testament, there is sexism, racism, savagery, slavery, and cold-blooded murder. This reflects the culture of the BCE Biblical Middle East.
    • In the New Testament, there is sexism, racism, savagery, slavery, and cold-blooded murder. This reflects the culture of the CE Biblical Middle East.
  • Jesus, hallelujah, dismantles both aforementioned points entirely.
    • The Old Testament books and the New Testament books reveal a God who is what we need as reflected in our current culture. However, gloriously, Jesus the renegade comes along and simultaneously nullifies and fulfills these obligations.
      • Jesus spends his time with the sinners, not the elite.
      • Jesus surrounds himself with women.
      • Jesus takes time on those society has deemed unworthy–the foreigners, the sick, the unclean.
      • Jesus unravels the idea that God perpetually punishes the posterity.
      • Jesus challenges the leaders who represent the dominant culture.
      • Jesus counters the cultural norm that as the Messiah he was to overthrow the government with violent revolution. Instead, he loves–subversively.
    • Jesus is neither Old Testament or New Testament. He is THE testament, the truest testimony of a God who all along has just wanted an authentic relationship with His people. A relationship that means He will mirror the culture to find a way in, but also that He will supersede the culture to show the better relationship that He offers.

the problem with prayer and praise

What happens when 2 hookers walk into a 7-11 at 1 in the morning?

It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke. But it’s actually the conclusion to one scary night.

Friday night, my little silver Hyndai Elantra was hit by a F-250, pushed into a Suburban, then up onto the curb. I was stunned. I was scared. I am sore. I spent 5 hours in the ER, getting an okay from the doctor. Afterwards, I bought donuts and milk at 7-11 (whilst hookers flirted with the clerk; see hook–pun intended). On the ever-necessary Facebook status, I posted that God was faithful… my accident could have been/ should have been much worse. Many of my loving friends posted the same kind of sentiment… God protected you! You had angels! I couldn’t agree more. I am grateful.

Except for the pit in my stomach, sunk deep by dark and heavy questions:

What about the what-I-assume-to-be-fatal-accident I drove by last month? Where was God’s faithfulness then? How come He was faithful to me, and not him/her/them?

What about those paralyzed by accidents? Where was God’s protection then?

And then, before I can catch my breath, the questions just drown me in the screaming stories of those I know: cancer? death? miscarriages? abuse? infertility?poverty? death beds?

Unanswered prayers haunt us all, but what of the fierce intensity of rejected prayers? Divine slaps in the face?

This is the problem of prayer. How do I ask for something that has been so clearly denied to someone I know? How do my blessings stifle the spirit of those around me?

This is the problem of praise. How do I accept something so many others have longed for, fruitlessly? How do I declare God’s faithfulness to me without indicting His apparent-faithlessness to someone else?

I do not know the answers to these questions.

But I want to know God.

And to know God is to thank Him even when He is not faithful. To know God is to look for the highest good, foreign as it may be. To know God is to accept what comes my way–the blessings and the curses–with presence for the presents, attentiveness to Divine attention, however it manifests. To know God is to write my own story, while non-judgmentally handing others pens and pencils and white-out and erasers to revise their own stories as well.

Beyond that, I cannot speak to matters of justice and fairness and rightness. But I can talk to the One who is Just, Fair, and Right. And to this invitation… I will be faithful.

 

 

 

God, The Anchor

My dear friend Pam, who is inspiring me with her courageous adventure of sailing the seas with her family, was kind enough to guest blog with me, a landlocked friend with no sea legs or sense, about anchors. (The bold font is my own emphasis.)

What is the purpose of an anchor?

The purpose of an anchor is to hold a boat/floating vehicle in a general area. It is used so that the boat does not float with the tidal or current motion of the water it is in.

How does an anchor work?

An anchor works by digging the pointy ends (flukes) into the sea floor. The flukes of a well set anchor should be barely visible- mostly buried in the sand. To achieve this, most small boats (I have no idea how commercial boats do this) drop an anchor off the bow (front) of the boat and let out enough anchor chain or rope (rode) so that the anchor flips slightly on the sea floor and catches. As the flukes catch and dig into the sea floor, more chain or rope is let out. Generally, a last pull on the anchor by putting the boat in full reverse is usually necessary- which digs the flukes deeply into the sand. In the Bahamas, yachtsman can “dive” their anchor after it has been set- meaning- they get in the water, dive down and have a chat with the anchor to make sure it is set correctly.

How does knowing you have an anchor aboard change your state of mind when sailing?

Having an anchor is a given when you are sailing. Without one, you have to tie up to a dock- which means you always have to get to a dock (and pay to dock). At first, we were very nervous about having an anchor. We stayed up all night wondering if the anchor would come out of the sea floor and we would float away (this only happened once- and not at night.). We had a special alarm that we set at night that would tell us if the boat was drifting. Eventually, however, we stopped using the alarm- and slept well at anchor. I would say that the anchor really means that you can go almost anywhere. You don’t need civilization with an anchor- just the right depth and protection from the wind.

How does using the anchor change your mind when you are… anchored?

“Anchoring” is an art in itself. It is the source of tension for many boating couples…Generally, one person is on the bow of the boat controlling the anchor and one person is at the helm (steering wheel), controlling the boat. Arguments arise about where to anchor, which direction to anchor, whether you are anchored too close to another boat, what signals the person on the bow is giving to the person at the helm and vice versa.

Anything else about an anchor a land-woman should know?

I remember not being able to sleep one night, thinking about anchoring. I thought- we are just floating here on this relatively small piece of metal (our 10,000 lb boat required a 35 lb anchor) and it’s all just a game we’re playing with nature. I felt better about anchoring, the more we sailed, however. In fact, being tied to a dock in a marina became strange vs. anchoring in a bay.

All this anchor contemplation came up last weekend, while swinging on my chipping-green-painted swing in the backyard, warmed by the setting sun streaming through the forest canopy. Then and there, I read “Santa Teresa’s Book-Mark.” 10261981_10152442385612813_4765116571285244382_n

I am grateful that many pieces of my life are falling into place right now. I am healthy, we are happy, my job both brings me fulfillment and results in success, and financially, thanks to my Mom, we are more than secure. But of course, the insidious toxicity in my mind does not allow me to be content here; rather, I am perpetually, fearfully, waiting for the shoe to drop, for crisis to hit, for cancer’s diagnosis, for epic failure to humble me, for change, etc…

But I realized, after reading this poem, I am dropping the wrong “anchor.” If my anchor is my situations and context and blessings, then of course I am going to be insecure–they do not last. “All things are passing.”

So this blog post is my way of “diving my anchor”–heading down to the depths and having a chat with my Anchor.

Such a chat reminds me:

  • Life is traveling at sea. The wind is always moving, even when still. The water beneath is full of life and death and change. The journey is just as important…if not more important…than the destination. As my yoga instructors say: “The transitions themselves are as important as the postures” and “It’s all about the moving in, and the moving out.” Knowing I have The Anchor aboard my vessel allows me to tip my neck towards the sun’s watchful eye and lose myself in the magical silver reflections on the water’s surface…and just be there, then.
  • With The Anchor aboard my vessel, I don’t need the structure of civilization or the permanence of a dock. In other words, I don’t need security. Rather, Security is a constant companion aboard, in the midst of the insecurity. I–we–can go anywhere.
  • Anchoring is an art. This means attention, practice, conversation, reflection. I would imaging were Pam and Ty to ignore the anchor, their would be detrimental effects (Pam, correct me if I’m wrong). My soul Anchor needs attention, practice, conversation, reflection. And not legalistic “quiet times,” but authentic moments of connection that fosters trust, so that the more I dive my anchor, the more I can sleep soundly. No matter how busy I am sailing, I cannot neglect the anchor. No matter how busy I am living, I cannot neglect The Anchor.

I am grateful that in good times, in bad times; in health and in sickness; in constancy and in change; in the posture and in the transition; in stormy waters or on still liquid glass; in wealthy and in poverty; and in all the subtle moments in between these extremes, He is there–The Anchor.

Picture Props to Virden Fam

Picture Props to the Virden Family

Jesus has left the building

After the Sabbath, as the first light of the new week dawned, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to keep vigil at the tomb. Suddenly the earth reeled and rocked under their feet as God’s angel came down from heaven, came right up to where they were standing. He rolled back the stone and then sat on it. Shafts of lightning blazed from him. His garments shimmered snow-white. The guards at the tomb were scared to death. They were so frightened, they couldn’t move. The angel spoke to the women: “There is nothing to fear here. I know you’re looking for Jesus, the One they nailed to the cross. He is not here. He was raised, just as he said. Come and look at the place where he was placed. “Now, get on your way quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He is risen from the dead. He is going on ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there.’ That’s the message.” The women, deep in wonder and full of joy, lost no time in leaving the tomb.–One of the resurrection stories, as told by Matthew, interpreted by Eugene Peterson.

It is a sad truth that I tend to live in a tomb. There, in the damp darkness, encircled by death, I linger. My entombed thoughts are condemning, offering little grace to myself or those around me. My entombed thoughts are cynical, always expecting the worst.  My entombed thoughts are bitter, tallying up the sins and demons others have cast against me. My entombed thoughts are anxious, finding little security in God’s plan. My entombed thoughts are self-seeking, turning my attention away from Him…and you.

And today, I can’t help but hear the message inherent in the resurrection story: get out of the tomb. If God’s greatest good for me was to be caught in a web of cavernous toxic thoughts, Jesus never would have left the tomb. In His story, the tomb meant judgment, brokenness, guilt, weight. But by rolling the stone away, vacating the premises, and imprinting footsteps towards life away from death, His story calls for action in my own story: get out of the tomb.

 “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”–An angel, according to Luke

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