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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the space of hospitality

***This post is part of the June synchroblog that invited bloggers to write about hospitality.***

When I think of hospitality, I think of my mother-in-law: or Mom as I call her and know her. Upon arriving to her house, it is clear she has taken the time to lovingly designate space for us to be, comfortably and naturally. Furniture is moved so that our bed is accessible. Sheets and pillows are purchased and placed so that our skin is greeted warmly. Cups and beverages, with the appropriate spoon, are laid out on the counter so that our morning is seamless. Natural soaps and toothbrushes are set out on the bathroom sink so that our grooming routines are not disrupted by forgetfulness. But these, though important, are the mere physical arrangements of her hospitality; invisible yet more powerful are the heart arrangement of hospitality. Entering her home is like entering a sanctuary, where a space has been prepared for us from the inside out.

When I think of hospitality, I think of my best friend Tammy. I remember when my Mom died, sitting in my sister’s backyard draped with trees, finding the time and creating the space to finally call her and grieve in her metaphorical arms. So much of that conversation, between my open mouth sobs and broken heartbeat explosions and implosions, was silence. Beautiful, sacred, anointed, compassionate silence. And in Tammy’s silence on the other end there was so much missing: quaint solutions, awkward utterances, quick fixes, flimsy promises, weak answers, insecure accusations–all the things that so often are projected onto those grieving by those who are clueless and uncomfortable with their own powerlessness over a friend’s sadness. In the space of her silence was hospitality, a heart arrangement of care for the other despite impotence for change.

When I think of hospitality, I think of my best friend Libbi. Walking into her classroom is like walking into a church. Student work and statements line the walls. The soft murmur of a tea kettle always whispers a welcome. Sunshine pours in from the windows, and outward from her her. The space is calm, inviting peace and pause in a frantic day. In the air hangs fresh memories of learning students, conferencing moments, counseling words, and inspiring messages. Her care for the students is beyond a lesson plan; her care is a heart arrangement for their every need: anointing a space for mind, body, heart, soul.

When I think of hospitality, I think of yoga. Entering a studio that is lit from above and within, practicing next to a community of people who are mindful of their breath, swaying to soft music, bending differently under the confident adjustment of the teacher, swelling from the joy of my body’s able movement, the release of Savasana: all of these blessings arise because someone takes the time to create a space for yogis to unite inhales and exhales. It begins with a physical arrangement of postures and cues, but it is the heart arrangement of the teacher that sanctifies a sacred space.

When I think of hospitality, I think of the times Dave and I practice Sabbath. With no phones, no tv, no computers, and no external distractions, it is just the two of us, sharing a space together of play, of laughter, of light…of love. When I talk to him, I know he is there, fully present with me. When I listen to him, I know I am there, fully present with him. And in that sacred space born of our heart arrangement, God is present as well.

Ultimately–sadly–hospitality is a dying art in our culture because our space is cluttered–daily, perpetually, annoyingly, overwhelmingly cluttered. It does not matter if cookies are baking in the oven and sweetening the air if the hostess is scrambling around the kitchen distracted. It does not matter if a room is clean and prepared if the host is self-consumed with his own problems. It does not matter if guests are welcomed into a home if all the children are attached to their video games. It does not matter if two people set apart time to hang out if they are both buried in their phones.

Hospitality is not about the minutia, but about mindfulness.

Hospitality is not about the home, but about the arrangement of the heart.

Hospitality is not about the serving, but about anointing the space.

Hospitality is not about being a Martha, but about being a Mary.

Hospitality is an age-old blessing ceremony: weaving hidden anointing-oil-threads of love and light through every interaction, connection, place, and space.

Here are other voices on hospitality:

A Sacred Rebel – Hospitality

Carol Kuniholme – Violent Unwelcome. Holy Embrace.

Glen Hager – Aunt Berthie

Leah Sophia – welcoming one another

Mary – The Space of Hospitality

Jeremy Myers – Why I Let a “Murderer” Live in My House

Loveday Anyim – Is Christian Hospitality a Dead Way of Life?

Tony Ijeh – Is Hospitality Still a Vital Part of Christianity Today?

Clara Ogwuazor Mbamalu – Have we replaced Hospitality with Hostility?

Liz Dyer – Prayer For The Week – Let us be God’s hospitality in the world

K.W. Leslie – Christian Hospitality

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.

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

let us meet in the borderlands

(This post is a contribution to the April Synchroblog “Bridging The Divide.” This month bloggers are encouraged to offer ideas on ways to heal divisions in the church.)

Existence mirrors God the best it can, though how arrogant for any image in that mirror, for any human being, to think they know His will. (St. Thomas Aquinas)

When I was young and impressionable, I was told my relationship with God wasn’t good enough. I believed it; there were many Scriptures and credible sources telling me that I wasn’t part of the one true church, therefore what I had with God up until that point wasn’t worthy. And thus began the first of many clear divisions in my life: before I was saved versus after I was saved.

On my high and mighty white horse, I rode into the town of my prior church, which shame-on-them, hadn’t done the job apparently. There, my fourteen year old fiery self argued with youth ministers about the need for baptism. They retorted, salvation by faith alone, not acts. I dug my heels in and stood my ground–after all, my new found interpretation of the Scriptures was the only one that mattered, so take that! God, and the mere but mighty 100,000 other true disciples of Jesus who had the keys to heaven, must have been so proud of me. In this contentious and arrogant conversation, another clear divide cracked in my life: THEeeee truth versus their truth.

Since I was one of so few of the saved on an earth so expansive, I was quite busy in high school, what with all the judging and proselytizing of the sinners–yes, the sexually active, the druggies, the ditchers, the cheaters; but, gasp, also the non-Christian (according to us) Christians (according to them). Sadly, they were misled and needed saving, thus ripping open another chasm in my life: me versus you, us versus them.

Early in college, despite my father’s failing health, I was told by various leaders that I could not go home to see my parents, because I would miss a meeting of THE Body. Deep within, I felt the whispers of a voice, a Voice?, urging me to use my own my mind, with which I loved God deeply. But, not wanting to be shunned, or considered prideful, I remained “humble” and open to the “advice.” Here, again, another boundary emerged: the voice of God through men and women versus His private stirrings in my soul.


 

The places in between places / They are like little countries / Themselves

287949cf29fdadef2bc9aa6828a7364aLater in college, I met a man who taught me how to play in the borderlands between all the binaries to which I held so tightly. His name was Richard Guzman, and I took his course Sacred Texts as Literature. He was a professor, but as I look back and realize his redemptive role in my life, he was much more like a soul whisperer. What I realized in that class was that there is an overwhelming and underaddressed gap between the signifier and the signified (to borrow the language of the deconstructionist Derrida). In other words, when my name is used, Mary, it does and and could not ever capture all the essence and wonder and chaos and disaster that I am. When someone says “I love you,” what does love mean? Does that one word do it justice? Isn’t my Western idea of love very different from the Eastern idea of love, though they are the same word with similar intents? Thus the signifier (the language) can never fully do the signified (the truth, the reality, the essence) justice. Therein lies the invitation to play, again to borrow Derrida’s language, in the gap between the two, to explore and embrace and savor the borderlands between.


All language has taken an oath to fail to describe Him; any attempt to do so is the height of arrogance and will always declare some kind of war: the inner ones that undermine our strength and the other conflicts that maim red.

"Lousy at Math" by Hafiz

“Lousy at Math” by Hafiz

It is hard to not notice the war, to use Meister Eckhart’s language, erupting from the many opposing sides of religion. As I scroll through my Facebook news feed, the left is attacking the right, the liberals versus the conservatives, the micro-leaders versus the mega-leaders, the traditionalists versus the post-modernists, the over-haters versus the over-lovers, the church-goers versus the church-refugees, all using God and the Bible to prooftext and and perform and persuade. I suppose in some ways, even the beginning of this post was my echo from across a certain crevice. Each of them claims, all of them, claim their language is THEeeee language to describe God, their interpretation of the Scriptures THEeeee only one, their perception of righteousness and holiness THEeeee only lifestyle. And again, the earth splinters, fissures in the heart of God.


John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us. But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you.”

All of these divides and boundaries draw me to the borderland, to see Jesus. In many ways, Jesus is the personification of the borderland. He is not the wrathful, violent God of the Old Testament. But neither is he the misogynistic, doctrine-obsessed God of the epistles. He is not here OR there; he is here AND there. No where, in my language which fails, do I see this more than in the story of the attempted stoning of the adulterer. If Jesus were the Old Testament God only, he would have stoned her himself. If Jesus were the New Testament God only, he would have taken the opportunity to preach a lesson and establish the procedures for handling an adulterer in the church. But, playing in the borderland, Jesus is quiet, an act of reserve. He bends down, an act of humility, and writes in the sand (don’t you want to know what he wrote!?). Jesus then calls the people to be self-reflective, rather than other-condemning, an act of grace. He does not condone her life choices, rather he connects with her (once all the religious imbeciles have left). His conversation with her is private, dignified, honorable, built from love not righteousness. Clearly Jesus understood no one ever wins a debate with loquacious assurance, even the Son of God.


 

2a87f6298fc48ceb94d62e9615eb0526I cannot help but hope that those engaging in the conversations happening across the crevasses in our religious landscape accept the invitation to play in the borderlands, to dissolve in God.

There, in the borderlands, are no stones–only insight into the weakness of the self; therefore mercy and humility breed.

There, in the borderlands, are not facts and concrete, proven points of knowledge–only faith; thus mystery and hope multiply.

There, in the borderlands, are not camps of isolation–only connections and conversations; hence compassion and love bloom.

There, in the borderlands, are not delineations created by versus, or, between–only with, and, too; thereby unity and harmony flourish.

There, in the borderlands, is not me against you, us opposed to them–only me with you, us alongside them; ergo trust and grace thrive.

There, in the borderlands, is not sufficient language which articulates His edges accurately and neatly–only words and questions grasping for the Infinite, the Undefinable, the More, the All; and so together, we wonder and adventure and play in His Beautiful Mystery.


 

I end with Nichole Nordeman’s song “Please Come,” which reminds us that God has the most generous, welcoming heart of all; his play in the borderlands is glorious and wondrous and majestic and unfathomable. Let us meet Him there in the borderlands.


This blog was inspired by Synchroblog’s topic of “Healing the Divides.” For other playful voices and healing hearts in the borderlands, check out these posts:

 

go ahead, ask.

We cover our deep ignorance with words, but we are ashamed to wonder, we are afraid to whisper “mystery” (Tozer).

Faith has been reduced to a comfortable system of beliefs about God instead of an uncomfortable encounter with God (Yaconelli).

As a classroom teacher, I know the power of questions.

As a Christian, I have been subtly programmed to question the consequences of questions.

I recognize as a teacher questioning shifts the power paradigm in my classroom…and I welcome that. I worry that in other arenas, such as faith, this shift in the power paradigm is not so accepted.

But this morning while reading Exodus 3, I could not help but notice how God honors questions. In fact, it was Moses’ willingness to stop and question which prompted his interaction with God:

He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.”

Moses saved the Israelites from back-breaking and spirit-crushing slavery…because he paused, noticed, and asked why. But even greater, his questioning conversation with this bush revealed the most authentic Truth about God to date (in my opinion):

If I come to the people of Israel…and they ask me “What is his name?” what shall I say to them? God said to Moses [in response to his profound question], “I AM who I AM.”

I recognize the historical elements at play here, that God’s name could not be stated, and thus the symbolic “I AM.” But what a powerful symbol I AM is.

I am now. I am then.

I am everything. I am nothing.

When we are scared–I am courage.

When we are mourning–I am comfort.

When we are confused–I am guidance.

There is nothing in our lives we need that God is not, because God. Is. I. Am. The perpetual present-tense of presence.

But this weighty and wonderful insight would not have come had Moses not questioned.

We question God without apology, we march into the presence of God bringing our armfuls of questions–without fear–because God is not afraid of them. People are afraid. Institutions are afraid. But God is not (Yaconelli).

Just as we see with Moses, in the question is the connection. In the wonder is the bond. In the mystery is the meeting. In the inquiry is the intimacy. In the risk is the relationship.

Risk, as we have seen, is indispensable to any significant life, nowhere more clearly than in the life of the spirit. The goal of faith is not to create a set of immutable, rationalized, precisely defined and defendable beliefs to preserve forever. It is to recover a relationship with God (Taylor).

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“Intimate” by Meister Eckhart

forgive. rewrite.

Forgiveness (noun):

The act of rewriting a story

My mother-in-law is more than a mother-in-law to me…she is just Mom. And my day began today in deep and inspiring conversation with her, conversation which fed my soul.

She related to me how my relationship with my Mom inspired her in her relationship with her Mom. All the stories I share and memories I treasure prompted her to look for those memories and moments with her mother.

Which is no small feat. My mother-in-law grew up in a traumatic childhood, which though not directly created by her mother was definitely deepened by her mother’s inaction and poor protection of her vulnerable heart. And as John Eldridge points out and we all know too vividly, the sorrows caused by those closest to us, with whom we were supposed to feel safe, are the deepest wounds of all:

What we learned from our parents and siblings about our heart defines us the rest of our days; it becomes the script we live out, for good or for ill.

So for my mother-in-law to “look for” those memories and moments with her mother does not mean a looking to the past…rather it means a recreation of her future, their future. To me, this motion in her life is a true murmuring of the movement of the Spirit:

As we learn to walk with God and hear his voice, he is able to bring up issues in our hearts that need speaking to (Waking the Dead).

And this movement, this Voice, is the most beautiful and glorious of all, because it is the essence of forgiveness. Forgiveness… to give completely. To grant forward. To offer renewal. To award tomorrow’s hope. In other words, to rewrite a story.

In my classroom hangs a painting which expresses one of the deepest and truest sentiments of my pedagogy…and heart:

Live your story; write your life.

Each word we speak, action we choose, relationship we build, mistake we commit, and bitterness we harbor becomes our story. And unfortunately we are not the only authors of those stories. Our family, our friends, our context also write their way into our stories–our lives–for the good, the bad, and the ugly.

And sometimes it’s just much harder to turn the page, so to speak. How much easier to stay in this chapter, which though painful is comfortable, though toxic is known. In some warped sense of control and self-preservation, we believe reliving the same story over and over hurts less. Some even relish in memorizing and reciting passages from that devastating chapter, playing the martyr card so manipulatively.

But how much more daring, more freeing, more God-like, to turn the page and begin a new chapter. Write a new story. Forgive.

Mom, thank you for inspiring me to use the most glorious and bold and beautiful pen of all…grace. May your new story be one of love and light.

May all of ours.

 

this message will self-destruct in…

This month, I returned again to Sacred Heart for another retreat. I was struck by many things, but one of them was an innovative and insightful way to approach the Bible. Father Kinerk shared something along these lines (as interpreted by me):

When you are in love with someone, you visit their home to meet their family. While there, you peruse photo albums from your significant other’s past. While perusing, your present conversation is filled with questions, comments, laughter, tears, responses, dialogue, and such. What is most important is not the photo album with its events and images, but the greater connection it fosters in the present with the one you love.

A conversation starter. A connection builder. I like that. It’s healing.

For most of my life, for the most part, I have been a lover of the Bible. I remember vividly excelling in AWANA, memorizing and reciting verses for some arbitrary awards system. I furiously argued with my high school English teacher about differing perspectives on Job when we read it in AP Literature. Throughout the years, I have annotated many Bibles until the marks have become highlights on my heart, then given them away as gifts. I think in Scripture. I credit my love of the Bible to my effective instruction in reading analysis. To this day, nothing warms me so much as sitting down with a twinkling candle, journal, mug of something warm, and my Bible.

But I cannot lie, there are parts of the Bible that make me cringe. I cannot accept any longer the idea that the Bible is a weapon, something to wield to gain oppressive power by knocking the “other” down. In my life, I have been the victim of this abuse. In my life, I have been the perpetrator of this abuse. I also cannot fathom how certain groups cling to the One. Essential. Scripture. that makes or breaks you as a “Christian”…but yet avoid others since they were written to “a different audience” or “for a different purpose.” For an argument to stand, it must stand on both feet, all the time…not just a balancing act when convenient.

All this swims in my head frequently, and sometimes I feel like I am drowning. I do take comfort in other people I respect addressing it in various ways, like here or here.

I also find comfort in other words of literature. I recognize the Bible as “the better story” (Life of Pi) or “the story-truth, not the happening-truth” (The Things They Carried). Father Kinerk, at my retreat, also pointed out how the Bible was never meant to be a factual account told by a reporter. Rather, it is a portrait: a piece of art which captures the essence of the subject by enhancing, detracting, or coloring certain aspects of the subject.

A portrait capturing the essence. I like that. It’s healing.

The bottom line is that it is not about the words, but about the One of whom they speak. It’s not about the answer, it’s about the conversation. It’s not about the truth, it’s about the discovery. It’s not about what’s right, it’s about the relationship.

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unresolutions

I know, I know. I’m going there. It’s that time of year when the majority of people resolve to do things differently, be kinder, lose weight, laugh more, stress less…yada yada.

I use to be real into that as well. I’m pretty sure at one point I even had a journal, The New Year’s Journal (yes, it is entitled to propercase font), where I’d list my resolutions each year so that I could keep track of them.

But the past couple of years have felt like an unwinding and an unlearning of that mentality. Not to mention how easy it is to fail at those resolutions 35 days or 35 hours in, and the pervading sense of heaviness, frustration, and quitting which tags along. This year, from now on, I want to be different. Or at the very least, I want to approach the blessing of a new year differently. So as a reflection of where I am today–which just happens to be the 1st day of a 2014–these are my two unresolutions.

Live an unclenched life.

f801b3844bd9f6b981d0cd0362fa9502Several happenings in my life as of late have revealed to me how tightly and deeply I foolishly (and falsely) hold on to my life. I harbor it. I worship it. The loss of both my parents in two years; the feelings of confusion, unanswered questions and deep wounds which surround that loss; my mental imprisonment to panic attacks; the immediate tension in my body, racing in my heart, and assuming in my mind I feel when someone I love comes down with the slightest of coughs or aches; the physical knots in my body; my toxic sense to control others’ beliefs and actions–all these reveal my obstinate clenching.

Somewhere along the lines I became God and took over my life. And it has not served me well. With clenching comes so many complications: stress, illness, paranoia, depression, anger, bitterness, judgment, frustration, joylessness, weight, isolation, fear.

I want need to live life openly, spaciously, in surrender.

Treat every day like January 1st.

I need to get over this idea–this boundary–that January 1st is THE best day to start anew and make commitments. I hold to one of my favorites from Lamentations here:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning.

With God, every day is January 1st. In grace, every morning is a new beginning. I’m sure this walks hand in hand with my need to let go. My desire for control leads to my obsession with perfection. And where a goal or plan or day is tainted…well, it’s just much easier to shut down and wait for the proverbial New Year. How much more gracious, spacious, joyous to wake each day with the Happy New Year mentality.

So on this January 1st, these are my unresolutions. May they be nothing more, nothing less, than a faithful friend who walks beside me daily, in light and laughter.

And may the friends on your journey be just as much a blessing to you, each and every perpetual New Year’s Day.

Lost and Found.

My dear husband puts up with a lot of “crap” from me. I’m sure one of his pet peeves is this fun game I like to call: “If I were my ________, where would I be?” (Thanks to my friend Laina for inventing this game.)

If I were my keys, where would I be?

If I were my cell phone, where would I be?

If I were my sanity and sense, where would I be? (Unlike my keys, which usually hang in the door, I’ve yet to consistently find these.)

My game of hide and seek, lost and found popped in my head while reading Genesis 9 this morning:

8-11 Then God spoke to Noah and his sons: “I’m setting up my covenant with you including your children who will come after you, along with everything alive around you—birds, farm animals, wild animals—that came out of the ship with you. I’m setting up my covenant with you that never again will everything living be destroyed by floodwaters; no, never again will a flood destroy the Earth.”

12-16 God continued, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and everything living around you and everyone living after you. I’m putting my rainbow in the clouds, a sign of the covenant between me and the Earth. From now on, when I form a cloud over the Earth and the rainbow appears in the cloud, I’ll remember my covenant between me and you and everything living, that never again will floodwaters destroy all life. When the rainbow appears in the cloud, I’ll see it and remember the eternal covenant between God and everything living, every last living creature on Earth.”

17 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I’ve set up between me and everything living on the Earth.”

rainbowOf course, the amount of questions which arise from this whole Noah/boat/destruction story are overwhelming… did God regret his decision? If so, what does that say about Him? Did he “learn”? If so, what does that say about Him?

But what struck me this morning was the simple, yet profound notion that God created for Himself a reminder, a sort of ribbon-tied-around-the-finger cue, a color-patterned, post-it note marked “remember the covenant.”

Considering this, it is a magical world in which we live, a world in which the physical beauty serves as a whisper of a secret from another world, a deeper relationship, a promise gliding on the surface while thousands float beneath.

In such a discovery I could lose myself.

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