Studies or Stories

I had some assumptions about being gay. One simple google could have filled a day with studies to back them up – but I didn’t, probably because no one was questioning them in my (mostly) church community. The information sat well because it surrounded and protected a core belief that “homosexuality” was just another behavior – not an identity – that the Bible spoke against. These assumptions filled the castle moat I described in a prior post, protecting core beliefs.

Our loved-one broke those assumptions: her very being went against every one of them, breaking my mental map of how things work. It sent my GPS into a “recalculating” loop, as if my car took a wrong turn and was trying to find a new route to the original destination. True enough, but if the destination was, “protecting my assumptions and beliefs at all costs” then I actually have a bigger problem and need a new destination altogether. Continue reading “Studies or Stories”

Time Travel

I can’t really remember exactly when I became convinced that we had it all Right.

That somehow we – the independent protestant church, and me – had been able to travel through time directly to the early disciples, skipping all the blemishes and growth from church history along the way, without owning or thanking those who’d gone before us.

We are re-creating the infant church – the New Testament church – but not the adolescent church of the 5th or 10th or 15th century.   Never mind the crusades, indulgences, overruling of science, manifest destiny of America, slavery, treatment of women –no, that church got it wrong, but not our church.

That church got it wrong, but not our church.

When we’re so willing to correct yesterday’s practices, how can we be so incorrigible today? Continue reading “Time Travel”

Simmering Boil

“I was simmering, simmering, simmering, then Emerson brought me to a boil.”  That was Walt Whitman writing about his literary hero.  And that was me holding on, white-knuckling the faith through various doubts, when along came a whopper and I couldn’t hold on anymore.

All along the message had been to stand firm, finish well, even in pain remember what you believe and don’t follow the temptation to change.  Painting the picture of a narrow road with many diversions, both deep and shallow, with any variation leading to being lost.

I felt I couldn’t grip any more – as Michael Gungor describes, being in a swiftly moving river and grabbing hold of protruding tree roots for dear life, then finally… letting go.  Scared.  Unsure.  Never been here before.  Going against all prior advice.

But for the first time wondering if God might be also in the river I was now washing down.  Could a living-moving-breathing God-in-Spirit use a traumatic event to show me things anew?

But for the first time wondering if God might be also in the river I was now washing down

How did the promise, “Behold I am making all things new” speak into keeping things the way they always were?  Is newness a one-time event?  Isn’t each day a new creation: a sunset or snowfall or conversation that has never existed in the same way before?  (What kind of amazing is a Creator who puts into motion a world that is perpetually new!?)

In a future post I’ll write more about what I was doubting and what is new.  But today, I’m only recounting the experience. Here’s one way to visualize it:  when our dog was a puppy we trained her using a standard dog crate-kennel that’s completely closed with a wire mesh door.  I have an image (and don’t take this too far) of myself growing up in the safety of this comforting and predictable evangelical kennel, complete with messages about fearing the outside world.  But enough trips outside caused a conflict when the world didn’t look as described – it was wildly variegated and contained a wealth of God’s beauty in the eyes and lives of others who didn’t follow our “brand” of faith.

When my simmering became a boil, desperation took over and I opened the door.

The fear of staying became greater than the fear of leaving.

When I stepped through the windowed door, there was fresh air out here.  And it turns out the backyard of faith is big, and there are plenty of other kennels scattered about with doors hanging open.

I could hold onto my faith in God without it looking as before.   I could still see the comfort and safety inside and a part of me missed that.  But I can’t un-smell the freedom.  As Switchfoot sings (slanging Roosevelt’s words), “Fear is all I got left to fear”.

He is making all things new.  I don’t know the road ahead, but I know that I cannot stay where I am and I do not go alone.

♦ weekendswell ♦

See more questions I was asking, see About

Two Tribes

Today Donald Trump becomes our Role-Model-in-Chief.  Many Americans are hoping he will bring change and give a voice to their forgotten causes.  But his voice is already quite occupied with impulsive declarations of his own prowess, and the constant chatter of who is in and who is out.  Like the leader of a Junior High School clique he divides the world into his people and The Others.

And don’t we all?

There is a joke in computer science that (nerd-time: stick with me here), “There are 10 kinds of people in the world, those who understand binary and those who don’t.”  To explain: binary numbering uses ones and zeros to spell other numbers or letters, and here the “10” translates as “2” – thus dividing the world into those who get the joke and those who don’t. (now read the joke again with 2 subbed in for 10)

Early in the presidential campaign, the main binary question was whether Trump himself was the joke.  But today Trump will put his hand on the same Lincoln Bible that Obama did 8 years ago and become president of the entire nation.  A nation that he arguably spent the last year dividing; by galvanizing a former majority and promising to bring back the America they remember.  In response we’ve had to gather all the nation’s “others” into one category to defend and fight for inclusion.

Categorization fits our scientific drive to explain life.  But, “Science needs art to frame the mystery,” writes Jonah Lehrer¹, “Neither truth alone is our solution, for our reality exists in plural.”

“Science needs art to frame the mystery”

I want to see the plural. Life is more nuanced than binary.  I want to enjoy life’s music on wobbly analog records as more true than the perfectly reproduced digital music.  Except, I don’t. I’m fighting my own brain on its quest to order the world, categorize its inhabitants, and be sure of my beliefs.  I can even become belligerently certain of my belief that things are not certain.

I surely started life in one “tribe”, and by various triggers came to awareness, and then even appreciation, of other tribes.  “The world is nuanced,” I declared smartly, and could immediately feel the satisfaction of full membership in the Tribe of Nuance. Only to discover the new group also divides the world into tribes as easily as the first, those who “get it” and those who don’t.  (Hard to forget Hillary’s lumping of all Trump supporters into a “Basket of deplorables”)

On a day like today though, I don’t want to “give” that point.  I want to challenge Trump and the nation to always remember that at one time, we were all an “other”, if not your parents then your parent’s parents… Only a few in this nation did not immigrate here. If Trump won’t work toward inclusion then we ourselves will double the efforts to overcome.  Overcome not only the current rhetoric that led us to this inauguration day, but also overcome our human craving for binary thinking.

♦ weekendswell ♦

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¹Lehrer, Jonah (2008).  Proust was a Neuroscientist. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Company

Castle Walls

How high are your castle walls?

When you find something that clears your muddy brain water, you do all you can to hold onto it.  You find a truth so you protect the truth.

Soon the truth is a castle wall being surrounded by other “truths” that act like a moat.  Now the truth inside can’t even be questioned without first crossing the moat.

This past year my moat was seriously breached by one particular topic, but now that I’m inside I’m examining the entire castle wall.  It’s scary and exhilarating.

The topic was the church’s views towards sexual orientation.   A view that took a handful of scriptures, unchallenged history, and scientific studies from the 1960’s about how people became gay, and built a moated castle.

That moat was drained when our bible believing loved-one – who was not abused, did not have a poor relationship with her parents, did not choose this path (and in fact fought against it for years) – came out.  One beautiful person who we’d known since birth challenged all the teachings around the teaching.  The moat of misinformation had served to protect not just the doctrine, but the questioning of the doctrine.

Maybe I will have more thoughts on the scripture, but currently it’s the moat of misinformation that concerns me most because it affects how the church treats gays in and out of the church.  (Imagine the anxiety of realizing you’re different from the majority, and having that majority conclude that you chose this path and need to change.)

But this is one issue among many.

We might start with the easy-to-carry good news of who God is and how much He loves us, but over time it becomes a heavy load when we pile on church doctrine and community expectation.  When it becomes an all-or-nothing package, the moat is wide and the barrier has been made bigger than it needs be.  The perception of us vs. them increases, and it is a bigger leap for others to come in.

I’m looking outward to discern what other moats I’ve hidden behind.  It’s vulnerable to be honest – to stand out in the sun with no moat and only half a wall, after years of fearing ‘the outside’.

But the air is fresh.

And I’m catching glimpses of the difference between doctrine and doctor, the Great Physician who is surrounding and healing me in the process.  And with the walls down, I can see so many others who were nearby all along, ready to show and receive mercy with me.

I’m catching glimpses of the difference between doctrine and doctor

♦ weekendswell ♦

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Capital Faith

Give faith room to be re-invented.

My faith can never stay the same, any more than my body could. Through the decades it has to grow, but most often that growth first feels like loss.

We’ve re-imagined our garage many times – car parking, storage, ping-pong table, gaming lounge – but we can’t just cram all those new things into the garage as is.  It always starts with removing what’s there and a clean up that can feel like a good “scrubbing behind the ears”.

“Finish well” doesn’t mean ending life with the exact belief set we started with.  We can live dogmatically – holding principles as incontrovertibly true – or we can strive to be corrigible – capable of being corrected or reformed.  Both allow Truth to be capitalized, but only one allows Faith to be.  As Anne Lamott writes, “The opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty.”

Keep searching for further light to shine on the truth you “know”.  It might look different in 5 years.  Though Truth itself may be absolute, our grasp on it ebbs & flows, because now we see poorly as in a dim and dusty mirror.  But soon we will see face to face, and this joy will surely also reveal areas we were wrong.

 

The opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. Certainty is missing the point entirely. Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns.

–Anne Lamott in Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith

♦ weekendswell ♦

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Moving Inward

Difficult times boil things down to their essence and give us a chance to discover each other’s depths. To first of all pull closer and declare, “I’m with you” and then to go find out what that means. 2016 was the start of go find out.

Learning last year that our loved one is gay – thinking and reading and listening and conversing about it – triggered a lot of rethinking other things too: faith, church, the bible, assumptions.  Now the boxes we once trusted to hold our branded faith no longer seem big enough to hold their contents.

I picture our small church as a circle of people, arms locked, centered around Jesus.  Facing inward from our circle it’s hard to know if other circles even exist around us.  When someone breaks the circle’s expectations, they may unlock arms, unsure if they fit in.  Evangelical kids who come out as gay so frequently leave the circle and drift outward, looking for a place to belong.

What amazes me is her effort to move inward.

When we are hurting and confused, when things don’t look as they once did, we can draw closer to Jesus and find his hands on our shoulders, blessing those who mourn, who are poor and realize their need for him.  We find solace in every gospel story of Jesus reaching out to all the “wrong” people while challenging the religiously sure.  We move inward to Jesus and are wrapped in the knowledge that he knew all along.

Jesus reached out to all the “wrong” people while challenging the religiously sure.

And then it happens.  From our now-disrupted circle we’ve moved inward to find comfort.  And then we pivot and look outward to discover broad and diverse circles of pilgrims facing Jesus and ready to embrace us.  This has been one of the great joys of the past year – finding the merciful in such abundance, the circles of Christians through history who differ in secondary views but agree on primary creeds.  Discovering long lost sisters and brothers has been like opening and stepping through a window, curtains blowing, and finding freedom on the previously-feared outside.

♦ weekendswell ♦

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