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Christmastime Is Here

Thanksgiving is over and the Christmas season is thrust upon us once again. I really love this time of the year. Our society shifts a bit towards being other focused.  Lights are beginning to be put and children are giggling over the possibility of what Santa will bring. Commercials are in full force,  I am still waiting to meet someone who actually does the Lexus in the driveway with a bow on it. We’re Americans so we’re over the top, it’s what we do. The ever-present fake culture war pundits are gearing up to make sure folks can say “Merry Christmas”  and the secular minded are just kinda annoyed we acknowledge the birth of Jesus. Families get together,  therapist appointments are made, we gain a few pounds and life moves along.

We have been blessed lately to have found a new church community at St.Thomas Episcopal Church in Overland Park, KS. It is a inter-generational community that is such a modern paradox, I love it.  There is a deep connection to the past at church. For most of our adult life we have attended the mega-church style and made many friends along the way.  It was a connection for years with community, coffee, bar style worship music, and relevant sermons.

St.Thomas is a bit different. The style of worship is the same as it has been for thousands of years.  It is quiet, ritualistic, reverent, liturgical, hymns (that few know the tune :)) from a hymnal are sung, the Eucharist is shared openly, scripture is read and a short sermon is given in line with the readings and season. The church follows the ancient church calendar so the readings (comforting and challenging) and theme are already set.  We sit, kneel, stand, and identify with the Trinity in the sign of the cross. Think open, inclusive, catholic. One could argue that this is not relevant to the modern mind and heart but I would disagree. There is something refreshing about church not selling anything, the focus being God and not us.

Anyway, I am super stoked for the season of Advent. It begins this Sunday. It is the beginning of the church calendar and lasts the four weeks up to Christmas. Advent is the season of waiting and patience. Oh, joy. I am a modern American and waiting is not something I am accustomed to and frankly makes me uncomfortable.  All things that can be “fixed” should be and do it now! My humanity wants a magic wand more often than a God who enters creation as a helpless baby. Nevertheless, waiting is a part of the journey.  I think this is more of an active waiting with a consummation that is known in the heart.  Like the alcoholic waits for the liquor store to open yet knows it will.  Our waiting full of hope.

May you find the time to disconnect from our matrix a bit this season full of pregnant hope and connect with the larger story you are already a part of.  Merry Christmas!

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The international Christian charity World Vision has faced a bunch of push back and wishy-washy behavior recently over an attempt to acknowledge and love those people of the LGBT community by allowing them to work for the charity.  Millions of dollars left and children are going to go without because fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals want nothing to do with LGBT and are willing to stop helping children because of their “morals”. I decided to rewrite (not meant to be scholarly accurate) a bit of Jesus’ interactions with the religious leaders of his day as if He were addressing  the leaders today.

 

Fundamentalists and the religious right know a lot about God but they refuse to experience the Gospel. They say “it’s all grace” then proceed with a list of “do’s and don’ts” that supposedly evidence this grace. Never giving assurance of the love abounding from the Father but rather warning to keep the fear of God tantamount. They love to fight the culture war, division is their game. To have spots at the mega-churches, halls of government, to get on tv and radio as experts on God. They love to be the “guardians  of our culture” and in a position of knowing the way. When judging God’s children is your way you will be humbled.

Woe to you, Fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals, actors! You keep people from knowing the kingdom is within them and are deaf to what God speaks in your heart. You don’t hear the Spirit so you assume no one else does. Culture warriors, you make alter call after alter call and with these baby believers you do what? Prepare them for war!

Woe to you, illiterate Bible teachers, you find every scripture to exclude yet miss every single one of inclusion. If my Father has made everyone in our image, does that not mean anything? You know the book yet not the one who inspired it. Know-it-alls, Every piece of knowledge must pass through your narrow lens. “Nothing new under the sun” doesn’t apply to new discoveries in science, psychology and history. God inspires discovery and yet you must make it must pass a biblical litmus test?!?!?

Woe to to you , self-righteous, who tithe on the gross and not the net,  yet judge the poor people in the land. “If they would only….” Your lack of compassion is sickening.  Self- righteous indeed,  we want to teach them to fish, not feed them the fish. You live the idea that help creates dependence, so sad.

Deaf and blind, if you could only be dumb as well?! You stand against supposed sins of sexuality while divorce flourishes in the church. Could it be because you make those not ready get married? You stop giving to feed the poorest of poor children because you can’t support “gays”! Seriously?? You expect that logic to fly?

You rats, your hearts have grown cold!  When my Father sends teachers and prophets you’ll deride them and label them false, heretics, make comparisons to my friend Oprah as if that is an insult. Or my friend Francis is a communist? Really?!?!?  Yet your labels don’t stick.  You label any truth I send that may be different as wrong.  The Spirit guides into all truth, that means you’re not there yet! You have no desire to learn and change. This is what “repentance” means! It is the ongoing changing of your mind to be in line with my Father’s heart. Not a one time guilt trip to save your ass from hell! You create hell right here, right now!   For yourselves and the world around you!

America, America oh, how I wish you knew the heart of Father Son and Spirit. To love in a new way. To experience the love that allows the judgement to leave your hearts and embrace and love the victim, the marginalized, rich and poor alike.  You aren’t altogether ready to love are you?

The Gospels actual account Matthew 23:1-37

Jesus Denounces Scribes and Pharisees

23 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear,[a] and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students.[b] And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah.[c] 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.

13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them.[d] 15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make the new convert twice as much a child of hell[e] as yourselves.

16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the sanctuary is bound by nothing, but whoever swears by the gold of the sanctuary is bound by the oath.’ 17 You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the sanctuary that has made the gold sacred? 18 And you say, ‘Whoever swears by the altar is bound by nothing, but whoever swears by the gift that is on the altar is bound by the oath.’ 19 How blind you are! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 So whoever swears by the altar, swears by it and by everything on it; 21 and whoever swears by the sanctuary, swears by it and by the one who dwells in it; 22 and whoever swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by the one who is seated upon it.

23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!

25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup,[f] so that the outside also may become clean.

27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth. 28 So you also on the outside look righteous to others, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous, 30 and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 Thus you testify against yourselves that you are descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your ancestors. 33 You snakes, you brood of vipers! How can you escape being sentenced to hell?[g] 34 Therefore I send you prophets, sages, and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town, 35 so that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. 36 Truly I tell you, all this will come upon this generation.

37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!

 

 

My attempt here is to speak out against the injustice that has become normal in our culture. I was broad sweeping and insulting but so was Jesus to his audience.

I want to take a look at the Greatest Commandment and maybe see if there is more there that what my mind and heart typically read. Here it is from Mark 12-29-30

Jesus answered, “The foremost is, `HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD; 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.’
What does this say to you when you read it? I must confess most of the time for me it was akin to being asked to have an obsessive compulsive thought process where God had to be first in EVERYTHING.  Anyone else out there read it that way? I think that thinking is rooted out of the thought that God is more concerned with obedience to rules than relationship.  Jesus himself showed blatant disregard for the rules of his day and in turn sought out the ‘unclean’. This WAS against the Law of Moses, at least if he wanted to remain ‘clean’ in order to seek relationship.
One thing I think we have lost in the modern church of the west is the ability to think on our own. We simply want to be told the rules or formula and we will attempt to live out of someone else’s hard questions being answered to them not us. It is almost as if we don’t expect to have anything revealed to us that has not been officially approved (see Bible Answer Man, The Pope,your pastor/priest,). Even though Jesus asked people how they interpreted things. Hmmm.
What if it is a command to be a fully engaged human? What if by simply being a fully engaged human you fulfill  the Greatest Commandment?
What if to love the Lord with all your heart means to actually be in touch with your heart? To really feel? To dive into the things that put the hard shell around the tender beating underneath? What if by really knowing and trusting your heart you are loving God?
What if to love the Lord with all your soul means to not be afraid to engage with the spiritual side of life? To freely question? To know in your core you were created on purpose? To not push down or assume this is not a part of you because it is not easily understood or because of the woundedness of others representation of a god you don’t recognize as real? To actually engage with Father, Son and Spirit and trust they are engaged with your very soul right this minute? What if by engaging your soul you are loving God?
What if to love the Lord with all your mind means to give yourself the freedom to think? To think outside the box? To dive into learning all about the things you want to? To be able to embrace your analytical or logical thinking? What if by using your mind you are loving God?
What if by loving the Lord with all your strength is being engaged with your full physicality? By engaging your body with exercise? By engaging your sexuality so you can be naked and unafraid?  By paying attention to what you put in your body? What if by taking care of yourself you are loving God?
What if this command really is to be human? To be fully engaged in your entire person? What would it look like to live this way. To live holistically (not a particularly modern Christian way of thinking). To see your entire self being you is actually the ultimate act of love to God and those around you?
I believe until you are actually able to love yourself it is impossible to truly love others which would make the other Great commandment impossible.
Is it possible that Father wants His children to be fully engaged in living life? I think so. Don’t push down or squash any part of yourself. You are of infinite value! Choose to believe this and engage your entire self. You are so worth it!

“When Christianity says God, it says Father, Son and Spirit, existing in a beautiful, intimate relationship of other-centered love expressing itself in boundless fellowship and unutterable oneness. It does not speak of a being that is isolated or unapproachable, detached or indifferent. It does not speak of a legalist, or self-centered potentate, or an unmoved mover. God, for the Christian Church –at its best,anyway– is a relational being; three Persons, Father, Son and Spirit, sharing life and all things in other-centered love and incomparable togetherness.”- The Shack Revisited by C. Baxter Kruger, PH.D.

How many of you had this understanding of God delivered from a church pulpit, revival or flipping by the goofy televangelists? I surely did not. At best I was taught that the the Triune God was a mystery that we believed, but was really just a mystery we can’t possibly understand. Why has the church (at large) given up on communicating this beautiful understanding of God? I think if we maintained teaching this truth it becomes too relational and less about performance. As long as God remains an angry mystery then people can be controlled or manipulated.

“God is love” 1 John 4:16  Is it possible for love to exist without an object? I think this is something in the church we miss so much! God is love in community so intertwined that they are One yet never losing their distinctness. The Father has always loved the Son and the Spirit, the Son has always loved the Father and the Spirit, the Spirit has always existed inside of the love. We were birthed out of this utterly complete love that had no need of us yet wanted us! Can we begin to really relate to God this way?

I feel so damaged by the the Gospel sold to me. Here it is in a nutshell. God made me but can’t stand to look at me and would rather have me destroyed yet Jesus says “Whoa, I will make him presentable, I got a plan, I will be the bridge so to speak.” Then through Jesus alone God can begin to stand seeing me again if I take seriously what he has done. Sound familiar? ( I know there are more nuances to the normal Gospel presentations, this is a gist.)

What if out of the other-centered love of the Trinity, God chose to make me and everyone else to be invited into this cosmic relationship? What if Jesus wasn’t plan B? What if Jesus entering into our humanity had more to it than dealing with our sin?  What if God isn’t concerned with my performance as much as my relationship toward Him and others? What if the Father wants me to learn to live in relationship with him through Jesus by the Holy Spirit? Yes, truly this is not as marketable as an angry God and a merciful Savior standing in the way or even saved sinners doing the Lord’s work. But what if God isn’t concerned with a marketing plan? What if he desires relationship?

The reality is that Jonathan Edwards sermon (see https://soawakeandalive.wordpress.com/2012/06/01/sinners-in-the-hands-of-a/ )  and understanding of God is what drives the American church and maybe it always will. Maybe the Father is only concerned with His power and authority? Maybe Jesus wants servants more than brothers? Maybe the Spirit is more of a force than person that illuminates relationship? Maybe the Good News is simply too good to be true? This is not what I believe. The God that is love will not be limited by our limitations. God is patient and time is on His side. We all will know His love and relationship.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son : and to the Holy Ghost; As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be : world without end. Amen.

“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,”- Jesus

So what does this mean? Is it even possible? What the heck does Jesus even mean? Is he really talking to me?

What I believe Jesus is wanting from us is to really see people. To see another human being as the precious, unique creation that they are because they simply exist. I have heard it said that Jesus came to clear up God’s reputation and to that I truly agree. I have to wonder if he also came to truly establish our value as human beings? Do you see people or issues?

Over my life I have been hurt deeply by those I love and I have hurt those I love as well. I found myself so stuck at times when I only saw my pain and didn’t look at the life of those inflicting it.  Once I began to open my eyes to see that those around me were simply doing the best they knew how with the tools that they had it helped me see them. My mom hurt me much growing up but when I began to see her as an individual with hurts of her own, I began to see her hurtfulness as her acting out of her own pain. This does not excuse the actions at all but allow me to see her as a person who loved(s) me the best she knew how.

Abdalluh is a young man who has grown up in Afghanistan. His country has been at war virtually his whole existence. His father struggles to supply the needs of his family and acts out in rage at his own inadequacies. His mother’s voice is tender and loving but of no value outside their home. The family attends their local Mosque regularly where he is taught a mix of love and hate. Then his school is destroyed in a bombing limiting his ability to learn. Then food is dropped from the air from the same source as the bombs. Confusion sets in and sadness hurts. Anger, rage and hatred do not seemingly feel as bad.

Is Abdalluh your enemy? Does his life have less worth? Is he simply a causality of a cruel world?

What about Calvin? He is a teenager in the urban core. His mom had him when she was 15. She loves him but has little tools and continues to salve her hurt with drugs and relationships. His father, immature and fatherless himself, runs away from his responsibilities before winding up in prison for armed robbery. Calvin’s grandmother raises him along with the urban culture. She insists on church where he learns of unconditional love with a mix of not measuring up. He sees the money, girls and prestige the thugs in the neighborhood have so he starts hanging out with them.

Is Calvin your enemy? Does his life have less worth? Is he simply a causality of a cruel world?

When Jesus entered into our humanity, he entered into both Calvin and Abdalluh.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’- Jesus

Jesus is saying that you saw my worth as a human being and then cared for me. Anytime we choose to take away the inherent value of a person and turn them into something else we are losing sight of our common humanity.

I know people will say that if this were tried we would be destroyed by our enemies and they may very well be right. I do not pretend to know how these things would work. I simply want to raise the questions of how well the current way has worked? And also to ask if you personally could learn to see people? This is hard to do! We have to check our judgements in favor of love. Loving our enemies is not some magic Jesus thing found only through forgiveness. Rather it’s when we begin to see the fact that we are all in this journey together that the natural flow of grace, love, reconciliation and forgiveness will flow.

Wouldn’t it be cool if the Republican National Convention turned into a telethon to help anyone hurt by the path of Isaac? The hurricane not my son.  🙂 If it turns out to be a harmful storm.

I am going to start off with a couple of quotes from a  very influential Jonathan Edwards sermon in the 1700’s that shaped American spiritual thought “Sinners in the hands of an angry God”

“The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten I thousand times more abominable in his eyes than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours. You have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince; and yet it is nothing but his hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment. It is to be ascribed to nothing else that you did not go to hell the last night; that you suffered to awake again in this world, after you closed your eyes to sleep. And there is no other reason to be given, why you have not dropped into hell since you arose in the morning, but that God’s hand has held you up. There is no other reason to be given why you have not gone to hell, since you have sat here in the house of God, provoking his pure eyes by your sinful wicked manner of attending his solemn worship. Yea, there is nothing else that is to be given as a reason why you do not this very moment drop down into hell.”

Later on he says “And now you have an extraordinary opportunity, a day wherein Christ has thrown the door of mercy wide open, and stands in calling and crying with a loud voice to poor sinners; a day wherein many are flocking to him, and pressing into the kingdom of God. Many are daily coming from the east, west, north and south; many that were very lately in the same miserable condition that you are in, are now in a happy state, with their hearts filled with love to him who has loved them, and washed them from their sins in his own blood, and rejoicing in hope of the glory of God”

My question is this; Is this what you bought as your understanding of God?

Think about it for a second. Were you called by his love or by fear?

I have become convinced that this understanding of God is the reason so many tune out. Also that this is the reason that churches preach the in/out view, as if we are a part of a nifty club with pretty heavy repercussions for not joining which is not the original understanding of the Good News.

Is it true? I know some reading will be like “yes, what are you peddling here?” I want to suggest that maybe just maybe our western, protestant, alter call view may not be the only way to view things. Is God really itching to destroy you while Jesus stands in the way? I have heard it said that Jesus came to clear up God’s reputation and I agree. However, thanks to sermons like the above it seems as if that is the only representation of God being proclaimed in most protestant churches, I think my catholic brothers and sisters may be more on track. Look at what Paul said in Colossians1:15-20

15  He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by[f] him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

So Jesus is the Image of God. Does that mean that God and Jesus have the same loving character? Or do they like the good cop/bad cop game? If we continue to only focus on  heaven/hell. WE become the judges of who is in and out. We study the book and determine what is right and wrong, who is in and out. While claiming the Bible is what is doing the judging. We completely miss the reconciling of all things to God which IS the Good news. ALL THINGS. Look at this new version of John 3:16 with some changes to match the in and out club of today:

“For God so loved straight people that he gave his only Son, that whoever is straight and believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

We can do this with anything, insert the word that you identify with the most and see if you are comfortable with it. Or as a reminder, put what you believe as an enemy in there to challenge yourself. Such as: Liberal, Conservative, American,Terrorist,drunk, intolerant etc.

I think it comes from a negative self image. If you don’t measure up to your own standards how could God even look at you? So we plug away at making sure we believe the “right” things or else. Then we focus on the “not right’ of others (usually ignoring greed, coveting, gluttony and lust) that is easy to identify as in different belief systems, sexuality, political party, or economic status.  What if God loves you right now as you are? What if he loves those you wish he didn’t? Or are you firmly entrenched in being “right”? Do you squash the difficult questions the Spirit puts in your heart?

What if we are all sinners in the hands of a loving, caring, compassionate loving God who always chooses inclusion before exclusion?  Can you accept that? I know there are those that would want to argue that God is not as good as that but I would be curious how that works for them. I mean without fear of hell what are we being saved from? Good question….

What is it you really want?

Do you ever think about it?

Do you place unrealistic expectations do you place on yourself in regards to obtaining what you want?

What unrealistic expectations do you place on your dreams?

Are there lost dreams of your youth that are hard to let go?

Do you believe in dreams?

Do you dream for yourself?

Do you dream for yourself today?

How would it feel to dream for yourself today?

What does Father, Son and Spirit dream for/in you?

Listen.

What is it you really want?

What keeps you from pursuing that which you can?

How Little I Know

This is going to sound kinda funny from an opinionated blogger.  I really don’t know much. It is amazing how much my thoughts have shifted over the years.  Take a minute and flash back in your own mind 10 or 20 years and think about what you knew as fact back then that makes you shake your head today.

We were just watching America, The Story of Us on Netflix. Great show, check it out if you can. Anyway, episode 10 was about WWII. As I grew up I had always been taught that the USA had to drop the atomic bombs on Japan. It made sense to me for years. Then as I got a bit older, God showed me the value of all people and I began to second guess and view it negatively. Now, once again I am facing how little I really know about the “big picture” of things.  Approximately, 120,000 Americans died in the D-Day invasion to recapture Europe from Hitler.  Japan also would have required the same beach style invasion only with even greater losses. I think it becomes easy to become “holier than thou” about decisions made in the past when I wasn’t the one facing the same circumstances.

How often do we/I do this? Look back and think “man, they sure where messed up”.  I am afraid this speaks to my own arrogance at times. I have found that this is the case with so much. We all can be caught by a myopic view and it doesn’t even have to be about the past. Think about the last time you really disagreed with a different point of view politically. We/I can begin to assume the worst “they want to destroy this country” or “they want to take away my rights” and begin to think ill of those who hold those views even if the crap is all in our own minds.

This journey is teaching me to hold loosely to my opinions, hold fast to what I truly believe to be the truth and keep an open heart. I seldom know as much as I think I do but the beautiful thing is that this is okay! I do think healthy debate is great for us as a society.  My caution is to not think someone who disagrees with you is evil or wrong automatically.

This is not the easiest lesson for one as opinionated as me! I am sure there will be hiccups on the road!

Okay….. I’m going to go there.

My spiritual journey got reinvigorated for me right about 14 years ago. Around that time I was a partying young construction worker who loved my beer, my smoke and having an opinion on pretty much everything (some things haven’t changed,huh :)). Every day I would pretty much  listen to christian and/or conservative radio. Unusual bedfellows I know.  Some things happened from this influence that I do not view as negative. #1 I began to see my need for more in this life. #2 My recognition of healthy lines for myself and society. #3 A desire and drive to own my journey.

I came from an environment that tried to instill such things in me but there was great inconsistency. So the lessons weren’t really learned at home.  Once I met and fell in love with Emily I really wanted to get “right” with God and start living “right”.  We started going to church and found folks that really helped us learn a lot.

Something I should mention is the main issues I learned from my christian radio where abortion, the “radical” gay agenda, saving “the family”, and getting people “saved”. Also, being christian and american were synonymous.

I began the journey of wanting to serve God and love him. Even asked Emily to move out before we married so God would “bless” our marriage. I still think it is better to wait to share everything till marriage but my motivation was mainly response driven. I thought my actions would increase God’s blessings rather than trusting that He loves and wants to bless me.

In church we learned a lot of religious stuff that claimed to not be religious. I learned a lot about who God is and who he says I am. I began a journey of trust and hope. Life happens. We experienced many health issues with Emily that stretched us. There was the thought “if we had enough faith, she’d be healed”. She experienced a remission and we all believed it to be legit miracle. This strengthened our journey for a while. Then a few years later her health issues returned. There are few answers in a situation like that. I chose to move forward in the journey and realize just maybe that God’s love, care and presence are not dependent on our actions. This was  a gradual shift of positions but one I am sure now that the Spirit wanted me to learn that God is still good despite circumstances.

Following that chapter I began learning more to trust in the love that God has for me and for all. I went through Breakthrough which really helped me connect my head and heart and soul with what Father had been showing me my whole life.  As this time was going forward all my certitude about things started to unravel.

Over the years up till now there are questions that the Spirit keeps placing on my heart and I still wrestle with today:

How much do I care for the “least of these”? i.e. social justice?

Does America’s interests matter to God above others?( That is one that has been hard for me.)

Does God love everyone? Even those I clearly do not?

Is all life sacred? Can there be a consistent ethic of life?

Is Jesus’ way just impractical in the “real” world?

As I began to wrestle with these things I felt challenged in my soul for my own feelings and thoughts in the past regarding HIV/AIDS so knowing Father had been awakening my heart, we decided to do the AIDS Walk Kansas City. It was an awesome experience. We raised a bit of money and found it good to experience people. The following year while raising money for the next walk I was talking to very successful “christian” co-worker, trying to hit him up for a few bucks. I believe the man was clueless. I told him my thoughts on how sad the church’s response had been to HIV/AIDS and the gay community in general, and this is what he said ” Yeah, I can give about $10, cause you know the majority are going to burn anyway” with a big smile as he said it. WTH! I was in shock and didn’t challenge it. Also, I never got the money.  This event with my co-worker was very pivotal for so many reasons. Such as; who are you to judge anyone?, there was no love, only arrogance on a subject that made him almost come across evil.

Faith, Hope and Love….The greatest of these is Love.

The Father cares far more about the heart. I am convinced that this is what Father wanted me to learn all along. It is interesting to me that the things of most value to me at the beginning of my journey had more to do with other people’s actions.  I don’t pretend to have answers. I have come to understand at this point that love is the lens I choose to look through. God is Love. I also have come to understand that I don’t need to protect people from God. By acting and living in love, I do not believe it is enabling people to “just do what they want”. I have my journey and they have theirs.

So, what I know I want is for Father, Son and Spirit to continue to shape my heart into who I was made to be.  All those years back I would’ve never thought I would come to the conclusions I am at now. My challenge to you is to give up your need to “be right” and allow your mind and heart to shift positions wherever Father leads you.

http://www.aidswalkkansascity.org

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