Monday, September 11, 2017

Ghosts of our Treasures

Have you ever had a dream or ideal that stagnants in the corner of your mind? A place or person from the past, one that haunts you in the hallways of your thoughts.  When you get alone it's the place in time where you secretly hope to go back someday.  A wish for this idea is like asking the present to not exist.  Forming this dream, as it still whispers that something went wrong, and the nostalgia starts to be called back. Whispering lies to us that, that place would be happiness again, a vacation from the current events.  But to wake up means to put on the clothes for today.  It needs to evaporate when your  rational kicks in, to get back there would obviously be insanity but somehow you still hope on some unconscious level, for it's existence.

I think this is fear and I think it can be sinful.  I find I suffer from it.  I think it's birthed out of my Ego from a point where I thought God was in control and the Holy Spirit got it all wrong.  That times and places changed because of someone else's sin got in the way, the devil somehow won that battle.  I think that's a lie.  I think to dream of going back is against the Holy Spirit's nature to progress forward.  I think it's a natural human rebellion and I think I see it a lot in our culture, I think I see it mostly in our pain.

Don't get me wrong there is nothing bad about relishing in the good times and if you're on this Christian  journey there are parts that are joyful and blessings in abundance and parts where you feel alone, desolute and even ask God "Why did this happen to me?" And our first reaction is to run away from the problem.  Even if it is just in our mind, desiring past joys and experience.  This is a big mistake of us humans.  A convicting passage of scripture that speaks to this: "Where your treasures is, there your heart will be also." (matt 6:21) If your treasure is in the past you can't take part in the future....ouch.  That's what the Holy Spirit has been convicting me of, lately.

Have you been treasuring something of the past, that keeps you blind to participating with the future plans of the Holy Spirit? I know, I have.  I treasure past experiences so much I forget to partake in the present.  To not enjoy the present is to refuse the miracles and experiences in which God has ordained for us here and now.  I like David's determined strength in this statement:  "I remain confident of this.  I will see the goodness in the land of the Living."

Not the ghost of the past.  It's time to let them go. Give them your blessing and ask them to leave.  Let them remain in the past as you go into the present.  Honor the dead but don't entertain them to stay in the land of the living.  It's not time for that.  Trust God will do the work of reconciling the rest, whether in our hearts or sometime in His future.

I think of what Jesus did in those dark situations.  He faced it head on.  He sat with the pain.  He let it physically have it's toll on his body as he cried tears of blood.  He wrestled with it, I believe he spent the whole night praying in his grievances wrestling with his call.  With a dry mouth and tired eyes "My Father if it possible, may this cup be taken from me." (Mat 26:39)

It's encouraging that our Lord, a little later  prays "Yet not as I will, but as you will."(Matt 26:42)  From that point on, He was totally submitted to the mission.  I wonder if he held on to a different vision.  I don't think we sit and realize the weight, making this decision took on him.  I just always naively assumed Jesus knew the whole time, and obviously he had inklings of what to come. But I bet he wrestled with every scenario to that night, but eventually knew that destiny was only the ONE true path.

I bet it stuck out like a sore thumb to him. Wonder if he woke up some days, dreading the next step that would eventually lead him closer to his fate.  I like contemplating on the human side of God.  It's one of the most beautiful parts of the Christian faith.  That he took on our skin and felt what we felt.  Perphaps dealing with anxiety, fear of the future?  Grief for the things that can't be....for the world that we live in.

His journey to Jeruselam, where the crucifixtion is to take place, is a long one. They say Luke's gospel emphasis' the journey the most.  First with Jesus visiting varies locations along the way, Mary and Martha's, Samaria and Galilee.  He seemed to take the long, arduous journey, of healing, stopping and eating...taking it all in.

Take. It. All. In.  Maybe that's how we escape this fear of the future, and the ghost of the past. Resting, stopping, enjoying the journey.  It's winding and tedious, but that's what makes it interesting, right? Not knowing where we are going and not a clue about the future.  When every turn is a surprise, well that just might mean we're on the right track. Don't look towards the past for clues about the future. Learn from the past but look with fresh eyes to the future.

(Thank you so much for taking time to read this blog.  Please be on the lookout for my new blog under construction)

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Awkward Dinner parties of Psalms 23

A friend texted me today "Do you ever have a feeling, that your life is about to change?  I've been feeling that."  I laughed it off and said "Oh, it's just the Eclipse." I went on to say that my life has been in a flux of change since about 3 years ago, when I got "Woke." (Well, aware of the millennial term, here).  But the reminder of "change" here, today sent a shiver down my spine.

Not a shiver in the creepy, something is behind you kind, more like this electrical energy current that won't go away. Like somethings going to happen.  I am not sure, but after that comment, it put things into perspective for me the rest of the day.  The flow of conversations have even changed this week, the energy seems to be flowing.  The questions and conversations begin to direct to things, I have a heart for but don't express because people are much fearful of the things I say.  I get that.  I have Grace for those people. I have been there, but I have also been waiting, and I sometimes get restless. And to anyone who is looking over the edge, I say this to you:  Just let go, and don't hold on if you want to engage in the hard questions, it's going to be a bumpy ride.

I, like, anyone else, knows the journey has sharp turns.  It is loooong, and winding.  Filled with scary Shadows that threaten us back into our boxes and want us to be covered up. It's time to uncover. There are Dark Nights of the Soul, and it probably won't be the last you'll see of them.

I'm reminded of Psalms 23 in these questioning, changing times. Uncomfortable times, call for the passage we most use as great comfort.  Read on deathbeds and funerals.  What is it that gives us great comfort about this passage? A Knowing of the Lord leading us.  Nothing can be scarier than being lead to the edge of "death" whether it be in a certain idea, situation, threat, or actual life and not know the outcome.

                He maketh me to lie in green pastures...

  I heard recently that this single phrase, may have a different meaning than we expected.  That our current cultural view has been misinterpreting it.  Thinking God leads us in the lush pastures where we can reach out and just have all our spiritual nutritional needs met right then and there.

We never think that there should be a wrestle when we go looking for God, do we? Yet, I heard a speaker say if they had to name the Bible, themselves, they would call it Come Join us in the Struggle.   If you see where sheep graze in the middle East, in biblical times and today, you would see barren wastelands.  Green pastures actually look like deserts.  Farmers didn't want the sheep to be grazing where they were, the harvest, nope, the Sheppards had to take them to the waste lands and you can see literal worn down paths in these rocky hills where for centuries sheep journeyed on these dirt, barren paths.

In these wastelands, where rain is sparse and moisture comes which ever way the humid wind blows.  Sometimes the rocks will absorb it, and a tiny, little alfalfa will sprout forth, from a rock, ya'll, a ROCK, such an unlikely place to find food (or such an unlucky place to build a church, if you listened to my sermon Sunday ;).

  The Sheppard leads them a little here, and a little there, grazing.  Finding just enough food for each day of survival.  No abundance here. Green Pastures are not abundance nor everything we need in life, in one place.  It's what we need at the time, when we need it.  It's learning to trust as each step presents itself, past the absolutes into the Shadow of Death, Grace.

               He leadeth me beside still waters..
               He restoreth my soul...

There's a peaceful, restoring we can tap into during those hard times, I do believe. Mindfully following the Sheppard as they follow the moisture drenched wind.  A sense of knowing, follows this rocky path.

               I will fear no evil.  For tho art with me.
               ......Tho preparest a table for me in the midst of my enemies

Wait, what?  A table in the midst of my enemies?  That seems like an awkward dinner party? Perhaps when we quit fearing, we can even find restfulness in our enemy's presence.

               He guideth me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake.

Perhaps this is a glimpse, we secretly hope for in the Age to Come?  A knowing that comes with the presence of God, the amazement that His presence is in the presence of our enemies, too?  They, too become our dinner guest when we live in the paths of righteousness.

What exactly is Righteousness, you say?

Let's look at one definition of it: the quality or state of being just or rightful.  Just.  A lot of times, we think, WE are the righteous, just ones, but it's not ours to wear, and God plainly says your righteousness is as filthy rags (Ish 64:6).  Why? Because anytime, we're down here, trying to be righteous,  it's laughable.  God's righteousness is just, and it's a justice, we can rest in.  Please change out of those filthy rags before you come to dinner, or you may just be the most unpleasant guest of the night!!

                Surely goodness and lovingkindness shall follow me all the days of my life
                And I will dwell in the house of the Jehovah for ever...

When we have a glimpse of God's heart, which I do believe David (the author of this poem) was acclaimed for, though he continuously made mistakes along the way (half of the psalms are a wrestling and questioning of God). He beautifully orchestras a true peacefulness in this passage, that has resonated soundly, throughout time.  A sneak peek of what Man aligned with God's heart looks like.  A goodness that goes alongside lovingkindness that follows you anywhere, even the most awkward of dinner parties.   Rest in knowing, we can't see where our next meal will come and yet have a hope that, whether that next meal will be in the presence of our enemies, could still be a blessing of God's Restorative Justice.

 Kindness-it's one of the definitions for meekness (I love looking up definitions, if you haven't noticed) Blessed are the Meek, for they will inherit the Earth(Matt 5:5).  Or as I thought, while writing this: Blessed are the Betas for they rule and Alpha's drool.  haha, had to add some light heartedness to this, but yes, a reminder of the words of Jesus when he talked about Heaven and Earth, a yes on Earth is a Yes in Heaven (matt 18:20), and us, the church, having the keys to intermingle these boundaries as intercessors for the world.

So, go in Peace, people.  There's a change about to happen, where sides are blurred in the presence of God and our still waters will be calling forth into these strange dinner parties, where we find the anointing of God that covers us in our fearlessness and by taking hands with those we rejected before. Come, let's go eat!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Reinstating Our Calling

I felt lead to share and do a sermon after our most recent transition.  I really love this church.  Never thought I'd be granted the opportunity to do this or have the nerve but hey, what other options do we have, right?

Walking along with this body of believers has been so so healing and restoring on my Faith journey.  Randall and I grew up Pentecostal, Church of God.   We met in our youth group, so we're youth group sweet hearts. Been together 17 years.  We've seen a lot of up's and down's, of this branch of the evangelical faith.  We really love the mystical acknowledgements of Pentecostalism as well as this denomination being apart of our roots.  But given some of the negative experiences, I did walk away at an early age,  I never thought I would be Church of God again.  I've been deemed heretical by a lot of former church members, so it's been fun to stay Church of God.  Kinda messes with them a bit.  I guess, the Lord still working on my heart in some of those areas.

 Funny side note. growing up, when some friends and I left the denomination early on our parents gave us heck about it "You better stay Church of God."  And I use to disregard that as nonsense but now half of our parents aren't Church of God anymore and someone how I  am.   God's got a funny sense of humor, and I kinda like it.

Since we all like the Ennegram so much, I'm a 9 Peacemaker with a Challenger 8 wing, so I guess I'm like the Rugged Peacemaker, which makes sense, I came from some of the wrong side of the tracks in Gastonia.  I do tend to be very passionate sometimes, I guess an underlining righteous indignation, per se, but most of the times I just enjoy peace and blending in.

And I want to start off with the reading some of the Lectionary today:

Romans 12:1-8

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.
4-6 In this way we are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we’re talking about is Christ’s body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn’t amount to much, would we? So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.
6-8 If you preach, just preach God’s Message, nothing else; if you help, just help, don’t take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don’t get bossy; if you’re put in charge, don’t manipulate; if you’re called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don’t let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face.

Matthew 16:13-20

When Jesus arrived in the villages of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “What are people saying about who the Son of Man is?”
14 They replied, “Some think he is John the Baptizer, some say Elijah, some Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.”
15 He pressed them, “And how about you? Who do you say I am?”
16 Simon Peter said, “You’re the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
17-18 Jesus came back, “God bless you, Simon, son of Jonah! You didn’t get that answer out of books or from teachers. My Father in heaven, God himself, let you in on this secret of who I really am. And now I’m going to tell you who you are, really are. You are Peter, a rock. This is the rock on which I will put together my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out.
19 “And that’s not all. You will have complete and free access to God’s kingdom, keys to open any and every door: no more barriers between heaven and earth, earth and heaven. A yes on earth is yes in heaven. A no on earth is no in heaven.”
20 He swore the disciples to secrecy. He made them promise they would tell no one that he was the Messiah.

These I don't know if you can simultaneously have a restful and restless feeling while reading this passage but that is what I gather when I read it. Or maybe that's what happens when I read most scripture, definitely a wrestle for me.

But this is what I hear when I read these: You do YOU and Let them DO THEM.  What  a simple and full  message we can take in individually and as a whole body, as well.  A connection I saw in these passages  is a responsibility to take part in the Body of Christ by living and professing who we say Christ is, internally in ourselves, first, AND eventually that will play out in our lives as living offerings.

So growing up, I had lots of issues with school and staying grounded in my body. I am a space cadet and I like to take frequent travels to the moon, lol.  I still struggle with these issues but before growing up and learning to discipline myself more, it was way worse.  I'm like the opposite of Emily Zimmer's story.  I always struggled to just keep up with the status quo.

 And I lagged behind terribly it most of my childhood.  In second grade I was tested for learning disabilities and passed! I don't know if I ever got tested for ADD but I'm pretty sure, I show all the signs for that one.  I also failed third grade and had to go to summer school.  This was a lot to process as a child, understanding these disappointing areas in my character but also at the time my home life was becoming unsettled.

My mom was a teen mom with 2 kids.  My dad was an alcoholic and drug addict.  They finally divorced when I was 7 and my dad packed his bags and moved to Pennsylvania when I was 9.  We moved frequently and by the time I was in high school, I attended 9 different schools.  It was a lot of change for a child in my formative years.

But for the most part I had a decent childhood, I had a lot of fun.  When you barely keep up with your grades, you get like 80% more play time.  My carelessness did cause me setbacks, my self-esteem, hopelessness, and a fearfulness that society would make a spotlight of my shortcomings.

One example of this fear played out, on the first day of 6th grade, I was in math class, which happens to be my worst subject, the teacher gave simple instructions but I, per usual, was not listening.  After I asked her to repeat herself, she yelled at me and was giving me very specific instructions like you would someone slower.  I about passed out, I was so humiliated  and I don't think I asked another question in that class.  That was just one example of the shame, I felt for something I knew, I could not help.  Looking back I probably would've concentrated more, had I not spent so much energy, trying to not draw this negative attention to me.

But this handicap because it really has been the thing about me that tends to want to be labeled and reformed by society,  has also been my saving Grace at times.  This thing that humiliates me and forces me to face my humanness, has also been an asset, especially in my spiritual growth.

What I have come to bear witness through these experiences is this: if you fail at something repeatedly or if you are not normal to society standards, it's okay.  It has no bearing on you or who you are in Christ.

When I was in 4th grade, I had a revelation of this, my own mystical experience, you could say.  It was not long after my dad left,  I had a dream one night that I was on the beach with God.  His face was so illuminated, I couldn't see it because it was so bright and lit up everything around us.  It was a feeling of pure joy.  We had a full conversation without words.  But He spoke 2 things into me that really bared fruit for me during some big struggles in life.  "That You are my Child,  and I will always have my hand on you."

When I woke up the next day, I remember just being filled with such elation and happiness.  As I got older though, I forgot this dream.  As I was growing up Pentecostal, in the particular church we were brought up in, we were very legalistic in our practice, to the point that really anything outside of our church was fearful and potentially out of God's will for our lives.  As I grew older this fear ideology did not seem fitting of who I suspected God was, personally.

I wrestled with what they were telling me, it always seemed a little unnerving.  My dream would come back to me and I eventually left the church because of it around the age of 18. It was not easy and I was kicked out of my home and my friends who left with me, were pretty much branded the Heathens.  This wouldn't be the last time I was branded as wrong, heretical, or endanger of God's wrath.
Or was it the last time I was shunned or preach about from pulpits, personally.

As you can gather, I didn't have the best experiences in church and I can totally see why people throw in the towel and say they're done.  I get it! But a part of me still loved the idea of Jesus and Conceptual Christainity as a whole.  A book that I read: Blue Like Jazz: Non-relgious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality was a Life Saver during the dark ages of my 20's.  It was like the abstract Searching for Sunday of the early 2000's.  A heavy set introverted guy wrestling with his thoughts of God and outgrowing his childhood's legalistic faith while experiencing Life outside of the secure social bounds he grew up in.  It was like indulging in a naughty book.  He would write  risque passages like:

“When you stop expecting people to be perfect, you can like them for who they are.” 

“...I want my spirituality to rid me of hate, not give me reason for it.” 

After having a secret love affair with this book, I never imagined there would even be a church that would some how welcome these thoughts or not try to cover them up with quick-fix solutions and an antidote in reading your bible more and praying through these questionings.

 I actually like my questions very much and enjoyed these ideas but not expressing them within a community, slowly put me into a place where I just had my Jesus on Sundays at my megachurch and did my own thing throughout the week as long as Jesus somewhat approved.  And I was quite comfortable with that.

And then we stumbled upon Renovatus and that changed everything.  Well, Randall found you by podcast.  He actually brought me against my will because I didn't think I needed another church, I had everything I needed to be comfortable in my walk.  It wasn't long after though I did start liking a church that promoted Misfits and shortcoming's that was an intriguing first, for someone that thought they had seen every side that this evangelical branch had to offer.

By the time we found you guys, I was pretty cynical, without even realizing it because Cynics never really quite know they're cynics, do they? I heard a saying the other day that said "Scratch the surface of any Cynic and you will find a wounded idealist underneath."

That couldn't be more accurate of where I had ended up, subconsciously, but also in a contradicting way.  That slowly festering wound lead us to here.  When our first big wave of transition came through this church, Randall and I had been here a year.  A part of me still didn't trust "church" by this time so I was almost not surprised by it.

What I didn't expect afterwards was how Renovatus became a living offering of what they actually preached. I had fully expected to see someone shunned or a place that became so full of slander and gossip that surely people would divide and take sides.

I expected to see deeper knife wounds.  But I saw an opposite movement happen here, I saw  people banning together in their brokenness. It was a very subversive feeling that felt more welcoming and safe right in the middle of the chaotic mess. I liked the church before but your reserved, humble grace practicing is what made me fall in love with you all the more.

Honestly, when Renovatus started looking like a failure in the eyes of others, was when she started living up to her name to me. And I could kinda relate to her a little more. I don't think you all knew exactly what you were calling forth when you named yourselves: Liars, Dreamers and Misfits. It sounds really cute in theory and all,

but  Do you really know the weight of that description or what it takes to journey with these people? Liars, the people who have not yet come to terms with their own brokenness.  Dreamers?  I think Jesus put it best about these people when he said Prophets will never be welcomed in their hometown.  Misfits?  You really want all of society's leftovers?  These are some really heavy crosses to bear.

In the Matthew passage after Peter announced Jesus was the Messiah, translated as the chosen anointed one.  Jesus refers back to him as his Father's Son.  Simon son of Jonah. What a powerful statement that Jesus reinstates Simon-Peter  back to his original name maybe it his original calling, being a son first.  I wonder, if were being reinstated back to our original calling.

Then after this reinstatement of identity, Christ gives him a new Identity too. So originally named Simon they call him Simon-Peter now, meaning Rock. Despite knowing Peter will fail Him not once but three times.   It is said by some theologians that Peter was not a character of stability, which we can kinda gather from that.  I love that Peter is such a failure and Jesus still designates him as this foundational Rock of the church.

  But also love that these failings do NOT define Peter, and he actually goes and does great things for the Kingdom of Christ.

It's interesting going back to the Romans passage now, the greek translation for the word Conform in the Romans passage is Suschématizó (Soo-we-sue-maso) meaning "an outward shape."  And the translative form for world in this same sentence is aión (I-On) of the age. When I read this I think that this is soo relevant to our culture and the modern churches of America,

There's this anxiety and an insecurity to impress culture that even seems to follow us into our sabbath, which should be a time of rest away from this. Churches are now having to fight for a place of appeal to our consumer mentalities, where numbers are an indication of success, and someone who lacks or has insecurities of these issues may be driven further away when indeed the gospel was written for those very individuals.

I believe, these temptations to conform to these ideologies is a step away from our "true" calling.   Let us not mistake ourselves for being better than we are.  Or just trying to be too well-adjusted, or comfortable for that matter. A quote by Robert Capon came up on my Timehop that I posted a year ago that couldn't be more fitting for us, here in the present:  "Grace doesn't sell--you can hardly even give it away because it only works for losers; nobody wants to stand in their line."

What a calling, we are in Christ's Body, yall.

 I believe theres a restfulness here at Renovatus that you just don't find in other churches, that I've experienced. A pause from the rat-race of culture, a safe surrendering to our true selves.  For those of us that have felt shame for parts of our character, its a place where we come out of hiding, and even learn a thing about these callings.  Because that's what they're really are, right?  Our shortcomings are apart of our callings, I do believe.

Around 2-3 years ago the Holy Spirit spoke into my heart directly here during a service,  I think the service might have been the Leonard Cohen Sermon, Hallelujah.  That is still one of my favs.  I always love when God takes art not labeled as culturally "sacred" and laughs at our funny labels. And I was sitting there after taking the communion and contemplating.

This knowing came over me that spoke almost prophetically now I guess you would say "Even your Tears are a movement in the Kingdom."  I've carried that with me since and I would think about it occasionally but this last month, I have FELT that statement, in a pushing forth from us. Maybe its because I cried a lot of tears lately at the thought of losing you guys, but I don't think this is the end of us or our calling, though I can't be certain what our end will look like.

 This statement is scary true of us.  A people of short comings and abandonment. We cry a lot of tears and yet we are very much a church on the move in the Kingdom.

Maybe this is very pious of me but I think we're doing or atleast trying to be our simple selves in a world that doesn't appreciate that and wants to add to it.  A Living Offering professing all of our weakest parts.  I know for me, the parts that I least expected to wield fruit in my life, the failings,  the parts that the world tried to conform and get me to cover up, the parts weren't good enough were the parts that called out who God was to me.  They are becoming the Living Offering of who I am in Jesus.

 We're not a people of adornment or numbers, ya'll. Numbers are great and important but I think they're not a defining factor.  They weren't for me and they aren't for you. One of the blessings of this place is that were an oasis for people to come and go from here, freely, in peace because I believe the Holy Spirit will not be stagnant, it will keep moving, it's always fluid, and changing shape.

Do ya'll remember Jonathan Stone's last message before his sabbatical.  That we were going to have a physical change in us not only individually but as a body as well.  I thought he was talking about getting fit.  Which I was starting the Whole 30 diet the next day so I was like YESSS! Whole 30 is going to change my life! yeah, No! That didn't happen.  Lord I just wanted to lose some inches not  have a circumcision of my church body!!

But anyways, what a benefit for the body of Christ, we are right now, as is.  A body of the broken, and kinda spiritually mauled and feeling abandoned.  I'll be honest, I took this last transition a little hard.  I had finally let my guard down and trusted again.  I was not the Angry Ophran for a while, I thought I was healed of all that.  And I seriously still think the world of all the Leaders, we've been blessed with. I really do carry a piece of them in my heart always.

They have helped heal my heart in ways, only the Holy Spirit could minister to and I still trust them, but the pain of losing our pastors has taken a toll on me and probably us.  It's like forcing us back into that dern calling of Angry Ophrans, the Liars, Dreamers and Misfits.

But in the midst this pain, in this disappointment, I've really had lean into who I say God is.  And in return, I've learned a little more about myself, my original calling, as well.  I'm learning  that seperation and loss are big fears in my life.   Which is funny because this is something of a reoccurrence throughout my whole life, so this probably plays out more as an insecurity of mine.  The Lord keeps forcing it up in my face, and saying "Let's use this."

I feel vulnerable again,  you know, we're vulnerable, right now.  We're confused, or atleast that's me, but I'm always sometimes confused about something.  But this very position of weakness and hurt is where Christ is and potent but it can easily be missed if were not careful.  And we'll be too busy trying to be better, keep up and not just sitting in this mess and learning to be our weak selves which glorifies the Pure Grace that God has to offer us.  Remembering that even our Tears are a great movement in Christ' Kingdom.  And the Lord saying "Let's use that"

(As the musicians and those serving the Table would come)

I'd like to end with a contemplation called Who am I from Richard Rohr, a weird mystic that I very much find connection with says:

Forgive me, if this seems too harsh, but it seems to me that much of religion has become a preoccupation with forms rather than with substance. People like Augustine of Hippo, Teresa of Avila, Thomas Merton, and Karl Rahner tell us that the discovery of our deepest self and the discovery of God should be the same discovery. That’s why good spirituality and good psychology operate well together.
Too much of both religion and common therapy seem to be committed to making people comfortable with what many of us call our “false self.” It’s just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, which is going to sink anyway. To be rebuilt from the bottom up, you must start with the very ground of your being. The spiritual path should be about helping you learn where your true ground, your deepest truth, and your eternal life really are. Our common phrase for that is “finding your soul.”
I believe that God gives us our soul—our deepest identity, our True Self, our unique blueprint—already at our very conception. Our unique little bit of heaven is installed by the Manufacturer at its beginning! We are given a span of years to discover it, to choose it, and to live our own unique destiny to the full. The discovery of our own soul is frankly what we are here for.
Your soul is who you are in God and who God is in you. We do not “make” or “create” our souls. We only awaken them, allow them, and live out of their deepest messages. Normally, we need to unlearn a lot of false messages—given by family, religion, and culture—in order to get back to that foundational life which is “hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). Yes, transformation is often more about unlearning than learning, which is why the religious traditions call it “conversion” or “repentance.”
As a young friar, I remember being very confused about Jesus beginning his preaching with the word “change” (Mark 1:15, Matthew 3:2). What was I supposed to change from? I was a good Catholic, a Franciscan, soon to be a priest, and trying to keep my vows. I assumed he meant it for other “bad” people. But those roles and identities were still all “forms,” not necessarily the substance of my soul. I hope you get the point. The false self is all the more delusional the more it appears to be “good.”

Let us pray:

LOrd Jesus, thank you for this body of believers, this place that provides room for us to grow. I pray we can be our own little Oasis for people to come that need a rest from the busy week. A place that isn't scared of failures but leans into our callings in these dark places, let the unstable ones come forth to be a rock for the rest of the Kingdom of Christ.   Please reinstate us to our original calling, and give us strength to endure the refining process, that calling requires.  Let us lean ever the more fully in our Grace and not into our own understanding of how this world is run.  Thank you for our paths intersecting and the opportunity to be here today.  We're so grateful for each one.  In Jesus Name we Pray. Amen,

Friday, July 21, 2017

Letting Go

"Okay, well talk to you later.  Love you."

It was my 31st birthday. That was the last thing, I said to him. It's the last time I heard from him.  It's been almost a year now.  We ended it just like that.  No break up, no reasons.  Well, we had plenty of reasons, at this point.  We were only holding on to far-fetched dreams of reconciliation between two people who haven't been emotionally connected in a long time.  By this point it was so forced, it was painful and we both knew it.

Prior to, we would call on birthday's, holidays, once a month, sometimes we forgot those phone calls. We sent cards, I was always careful not to pick "The Thanks for being the best Dad cards".  The dance was all so terribly confusing.  We were never really in step and we never cared to be, with each other.  It was a break up that was long overdue.

It was a chapter of a stalely, dusty book that i didn't care to read but took me years to finish.  Finally closed, though I wrestled with why and mourned the death of what could've been.  That reconciliation we wanted to forcibly happen was just never going to happen.  I endured the relationship like it was a penance and apart of it did give me a sense of false holiness.  If  I could love in this relationship I could love anyone, unworthy.  I could learn from it, I could show my relentless, forgiving, Christian heart. I. Could. Show.... it was more about me masking my own insecurities than what the relationship was doing to both parties and it was time to end it.

It's something, we all have to learn, isn't it?  How a breakup feels and to live with the wound, it gives you. I had never had my heart broken or been a toxic relationship.  I always carried a certain naivety for that, optimism that people or situations aren't beyond help, if they're loved correctly, anything could happen. It was an ignorant attempt to control situations. I loved him beyond any worthiness of what he deserved and it still didn't work.  I always left the door open, everytime he walked out, knowing he would come back, we'd start the cycle that led to nowhere.  That "holiness" is addictive but it's just not fair to us or the other.  Forced relationships aren't real connections, we usually stay in them to emotionally benefit Us and it's not healthy. We can't love a corspe alive, and we can't control narrivatives to our bidding.  It's just not how love works.

When the realization hit that we finally ended things, most days it didn't bother me.  I had learned what loving yourself means this year and it was learning of respect for myself in ALL places and relationships.  Also, that we are not the finisher of our own life and others, God is.  Along with the reminder that his ways are not our ways and man, my ways in this relationship wasn't getting either one of us anywhere.  If the Grace you extend to others is more than what you would extend to yourself in love, it's toxic and you deserve more.  We deserve so much better than we allow ourselves out of fear, control and yes, piety.

There are still the few days that I grieve what could've been.  I have dreams, occasionally that reveal the anxiety of what not having this relationship does to me, subconsciously.  But for the most part, this "handicap" has been my breeding ground in learning grace for myself, what I deserve and what I invite into my life.  It's apart of who I am and my character, as well as my integrity in showing up for others.  Perhaps, holiness is learning to better the world from the very place of our shortcomings.

I heard something not too long ago that stuck with me: "By His strips, we're all healed", could not only be a physical profession but also a metaphorical one too.  One that echoes when we take on our crosses and walk with Christ. When we become like Christ, the strips this old world has done to us, begins to heal others.  If that is true,  I think it's what makes us and our experiences unique in Kingdom work.  There's a certain kinship, we have for others, who've walked similar unfortunate paths, as us, and for that I'm grateful for the wounds that I carry. :)

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Present of Parenting

I really don't know what to write about, its been so long. I just know I need to write. And I need to better myself and I need to grow and learn and stretch myself.....and there it is again.  My need to do, do, do.  I am a Type B person.  I am laid back.  So I can only imagine what some of you Type A'ers must feel like.  My problem is I'm about 10 years ahead of myself. I want to be what I envision I will be in 10 years, and I want to get it now, so I'm envisioning all the steps I need to get there.  Then I get overwhelmed or burnt out and I give up and do whatever fancies sound interesting to me next.  I can't get out of the first step of planning into action.

It was the same growing up.  I would get determined to finally clean my terribly messy room, get overwhelmed and sit in the middle of my floor and zone out.  Fantasy has been my escape when I didn't want to work in the now.  I still do it but in a different way.  I fantasize without carefully planning.  I have it in my head I am going to do some greater good for the Greater Cause but I can barely get through my days without being chaotic, spacey and running around busy without actually getting anything accomplished.  Us, Type B'ers, were pretty good at that.

I'm really hoping its just the season I'm in.  I mean, I pratically have to wipe 3 butts, feed 3 mouths, heck just keeping us all alive most days is pretty successful for me.  I am trying to fill fulfilled with all the monomotmous days of child caring.  It's been one of my greatest challenges.  Mainly, because I can't plain ahead and escape the present.  It's making me endure the process.  Sounds so encouraging, doesn't it?

In all the encouragement that I've been learning in this child rearing clean fun, it's brought me to research parenting between Positive Parenting approaches compared to Corporate Punishment/Authoritarian parenting.  CP though has it's rewards in the instant with parenting, the long term affects haven't been so well.   Emotional divides, and even stunted growth with the authoritarian because if you are always in a position of non-questioning, you fail to grow emotional along with your child.  PP teaches a balance with child, and adult and growing alongside your child in learning to control your emotions with the theory that kids will do as you do.

Positive Parenting though doesn't have its instant gratifications in the now, sometimes, you really just have to trust the process.  It teaches eventual empathy and compassion as corner stones for your child as well as making sure you are learning these bases too.

Yikes, you mean, I have to still learn and grow and control myself.  I don't reach a certain status where I finally get those needs met and I get to dictate to others how they should be doing too? Especially my kids? Sounds uncomfortable and it is. It is super uncomfortable and humbling.  It's already teaching me life lessons in how to be a better person.  Being now, and not zoning out.  Not predicting where I'll be, where the kids will be....trusting the process.  Trusting that the Lord doesn't waste anything, my hobbies, my experiences, my restlessness. My kid's defying personalities.   The choices I engage in and the opinions I make, will influence my kids somehow.

Parenting has really started  a soul searching of what is important to us.  Do I teach my kids how to be pretty or do I teach them to value education over the societal expectations of women.  (And yes studies have shown women as actually perceived as more attractive, the less opinionated and educated, they are.)  As a Christian I want to teach them the beauty of the Gospels but I also want them to think for themselves and not just think something because its the environment I've surrounded them by.  I want them to be fully engaged in their ideals and I want them to WANT to love people through their actions.  All of this, has come full circle back to me.  It's hard and its strenuous. It most pointedly shows me of all the work I need to do in the present.  Most days, I  don't think I have it in me to be that person, and most days I'm still leaning on Grace.

But I'm willing and I'm being present.  Sometimes I think it's all the Lord, needs from us is to show up.  Trusting something will come out of these days where the days seem endlessly wasteful and the road ahead looks tremendously long and Grace looks like the only boat to wade us through these uncharted waters, but what's life without a little challenge?

Friday, June 24, 2016

Middle aged and Kinda Graceful.

I'm middle aged.  Or maybe I'm just on the cusp of it.  Like the beginning of a roller coaster as it scales up and up, right before it starts taking the plunge to god knows where.  That's where I  am, I think.  I'm 30, I got pasty white legs, varicose veins, stretch marks and a cubby middle.  My body has been through it in the last 3 years and I'm starting to feel it.

I've birthed 2 beauties, who I swear, aged me 5 years each pregnancy, so technically, I'm forty.  My BMI would annoyingly agree to that.  When I haven't been pregnant, I've been breastfeeding.  I am forever carrying a baby, two large jugs that won't fit gracefully in a normal shirt (or bra for that matter!).  Just when I think I have a moment without motherhood, you know like a date night: Oh no, I'm attached to a pump and I better have every single of the 194 parts that go along with that thing.  Not to mention cleaned and sterilized, or I'm paying mad hell for it!!  My oldest is arguing with me in a non-english language, right now as I type. Probably because I'm taking a little ME break, and that's just too much time for momma to spend for herself.

As many of you know, a couple of months after I welcomed my second daughter, I was diagnosed with a diseased (Hashimotos) and cancerous thyroid.  I think that was the month, I became an adult.  Like a full-fledged one.  Not that I had trouble growing up, although I did carry naiveté  and carelessness around longer than most.  I just faced down my life that month with tired everything and knew nothing was forever and every moment was fleeting.

I came home from the doctor that day and just hugged my babies.  Luckily for me, thyroid cancer is mostly just a nuisance.  But after a day of crying and telling my close friends my health issues, I felt a calm peace.  Life was a good one and I needed this bump in the road, as crazy as that sounds. A reality check I learned a lot from.  I learned white, pasty legs aren't so bad as long as they have strength to carry my babies.  I learned varicose veins like stretch marks are a reminder that I survived 50lb pregnancies and came out with enough love that even beauty doesn't match the sacrificial joy that I have as a mother.  I can almost forget what I looked like 5 years ago when I could sleep in, work out and take a nap all in a hard day's work.

Motherhood, with all her challenges, has surprised me with something: More grace!! And more grace is always a good thing.  It's the margarita at the end of the day (although I'm on a diet) when I've had a gassy baby and a fussy toddler finally in bed.  It's the shrug of my shoulders when dishes are piled high but I'm sitting and playing with my baby. I know I'll wake up tomorrow and she be asking me to turn Toons on for her.  It's when I've gotten on a scale after surgery and gained 3lbs despite eating the healthiest I could possibly eat.  No worries I'll be the healthiest cubby girl, you know!

Some of the hats my Grace wears are silly but since I'm middle aged, who do I have to impress?  A few more heads that would've turned 5 years ago?  Those chicks who have perfect bodies on instagram?  Good for themmmm!! I toast to them while I obnoxiously drink my frozen pina colada, full of sugar! There was a time in my life where I would almost punish myself for such indulgences, but Grace is something I've discovered, it's like the best kept secret for happiness for us almost middle-aged folks, who's time in the sun has expired to a afternoon nap.

So here, let's raise a glass to those 20 somethings and the 30 somethings who still want to be 20 somethings and remind them of one thing:  Hey, you are perfectly not perfect and that little bit of space between you and what you think is perfection is the very spot Grace wants to make a home in.  Don't fight her, let her be.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Identity isn't in our Calling.

So I don't know if you ever have epiphany moments revealed to you, they're few and far between for me but I get them every now and then.   I've been reading this book called "How to be a Conscious Parent."  It's a really great book, I highly recommend!  Anyways, there's lots to cover in the book about how we as parents will unconsciously bring our baggage and hurts from our own childhood into our relationship with our kids and how that can cause friction in our relationship and eventually can harm our kids in becoming who God made them to be.  Because at the end of the Day, our kids are not ours but the Lord's anyways.  Okay, so the book doesn't exactly say that because it's not a Christian book but you can see how a lot of the principles of the book go side by side with Christian principles basically without the "Christian lingo".  Which I like to see, Christ' foot prints in things that sometimes aren't even labeled Christ.

But anyways, in this book, the author Dr. Tsabary explains ways we carry our pain and thus sometimes letting our Ego/flesh guide us more than ourselves and I think we can do that a lot without realizing it, instead of God or the Holy Spirit.  Ways we carry pain is in trying to affirm ourselves in things whether in success, working out, and even intellectualizing it sometimes.  When I read that it stuck out to me and it's like when the Holy Spirit or maybe just common sense taps you on the shoulder and you know it.  Then you just sit and ponder how in the heck the Lord guessed that's one of the things wrong with you because you had no idea, yourself.

Growing up, I didn't always feel like the smartest kid.  Mostly because I just wanted to play and not do my school work or listen to teachers.  Now I realize as an adult, I, being a child of a single parent, the school system just let me slip by and along with this, it lead me to never feel quite as adequate as my peers.  Personally, I see that as a blessing now that I didn't exactly fit in to society's mold but it sure felt like a curse most of grade school and I carried that pain into adulthood.  Coupled with my religious upbringing of rigid molds, I found myself quite not fitting into again, I realized I might be carrying that remembered pain into my new hobbie: studying theology.  Which isn't necessary a bad hobby, actually it's helped me tremendously in finding myself and researching the mysterious character of God while keeping me from being a bored housewife because it keeps my curious soul up to pace.

The only problem I've discovered in my trying to know more and more Theology, is that I keep trying to use it to define me.   Now whether I decide to be a Theologian or not (though I'm quite content with less debt and being a hairstylist) it is important that I don't do it mostly based on my pain or inadequacy of myself.  And that's what I've been doing.  Using it to cover up my hurt and using it to feel better about myself.  But one of the things I've learned from this book and my love for the Word is not letting those things define me but to keep defining myself in Christ.  Especially if something is "Christian", it can be so much easier to define ourselves through that and be okay with it.

And on top of all this going on. I love those moments when you keep getting tapped on the shoulder like "Okay, maybe I'm onto something."   A few days later, I was listening to my church's podcast from another Sunday because I went to the mountains instead and my Pastor Jonathan Stone was talking about how he doesn't want his Pastorial role to define him as a Person instead of finding himself in Christ and also this lovely lady Blake Blackman had gotten up and confessed she had placed her identity in Church and not Christ to the point that when our church a few years back had a ruff patch she was upheveled by the situation and just recently while talking with a friend, admitted that "Church was everything" instead of Christ. So much of the time its so easy to get wrapped up in our calling and letting that take forefront and trying to find our meaning in that.

I think I've seen it in a lot of people, including myself. They don't think they're Christian enough so they end up becoming pastors or in my case trying to be a Theologian, lol, but we have to remember those things don't define us because at the end of the day, we have to be happy with the person in the mirror without all those recognitions, titles or just plain smarts and love ourselves without condition of outside sources or works. Knowing that we are worthy of Love regardless of what we do or our actions.

There is one thing that we can find our identity in and that is Love. For God is love. You can find yourself in loving people and God.  Throughout this learning process, that is the essence of Christian living and it's pretty simple but for some reason we keep trying to add bells and whistles along with it. Trying to make ourselves more worthy, when all along Christ is saying I made you, YOU for a reason. I put you in the exact place in your life with all your life experiences for a reason.  Instead of thinking of how can I be more deserving, I'm learning one of the great mysteries for us humans to get and that is just being content with myself but open to change when necessary for growth.  Not by force but willingness of having our heart open and vulnerable. :)