Fearless Conversation

A practical update: this is not an excuse, it is a realisation.

I had a wonderful visit on Sunday with a lovely friend. It left me feeling two things: Yes, this is exactly what I’ve been waiting for, and, I need more of this.

You see, I was asked how I felt about having deep conversations, and my first response to that is always an immediate “Yes, please, speak deeply with me!” I’ve been writing to the depths of my shallow soul since I was thirteen, I long for depth.

And so I said “It’s not comfortable, but yes I like deep conversation.”

But it’s not comfortable, because as much as I have lauded deep conversation…I’ve had very, very, very little of it. And I find myself floundering because I can sit at my keyboard for as long as it takes to convey my deepest thoughts to you, but a conversation lives, flows, breathes. It has a heartbeat, it moves, it wanes. If I do not speak immediately what Spirit breathes, the natural rhythm is not honoured.

I know I’m making simple discussion sound lofty and artful–and it is. But what I’m really trying to convey is that I’m unpractised; I’ve had very little practice at any conversation. When I was thirteen and coming out of seclusion I didn’t know how to have a conversation; I made a friend very dear to me but I could not speak audibly to her in the first year of our friendship because I was so frozen at human contact. And the reality is that even though adulthood has forced me into scraping by socially, I have never advanced beyond the point of that thirteen-year-old boy with a lump in my throat and a stop on my voice, and the truth is I have known very few (if any) people who knew how to approach that, or who had the patience to walk for long next to a mute.

It’s not comfortable.

I’ve been in a bit of a slump for several months. I’ve wanted to write here, I’ve wanted to share many things with my close friends, many of whom are not geographically close. I’ve had projects planned, research to complete and write on for my other writing project, I’ve even been toying with some vague ideas around a [possible spoiler alertpodcast. But I don’t, and haven’t, and haven’t the motivation or energy. I sat down at my desk to do one thing and tried that and four or five other things and decided I didn’t want to do any of them before almost begrudgingly opening wordpress because I thought, maybe it’s time to write this out and process it. So here I am.

And I haven’t really had many conversations of much substance in the last….well, I don’t even want to think about how long, because frankly that’s a depressing thought. I haven’t been well-connected to people in a long time–certainly not people with whom I could share deep conversation. And I long for that.

So I may not have much to write here. I may not have much presence on social media at all, because I’d like to make conversation a practice – real conversation, with my voice, out loud. I’d like to hear from my friends in a call, or face to face. I’d like to have deep conversation, until it is comfortable enough that my heart does not start to race leading up to the moment I speak. I would like to be much more authentic by this practice.

I hope to see you around.

Advertisements

They Are All

For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

-Hebrews 10:14

I have always had a very difficult time reconciling between the promised perfection of the gospel and the apparent brokenness of the world around me, never mind my own troubled beliefs. What I have come to be at peace with is that the reality of the gospel and the incarnation wins out, because it is true, no matter how many perceptions I or anyone else may hold to discredit it.

At this point, if you haven’t been keeping up with my recent musings you may want to read the precursors to this blog, here and here. They are the backdrop which is my personal experience and story.

My understanding has evolved; I was eleven when I was baptised, and I did so because I feared that my supposed sexual deviation would keep me out of heaven. That is how salvation worked for me, after all; say a prayer, make a declaration, get dunked under water for half a second, and come up a different person.

I was disappointed when it didn’t make me an asexual.

I’ve recounted often of my trouble understanding the whisper of Holy Spirit to me regarding the irrelevance of my purity in regard to His; I could not comprehend at the first hearing how His purity could be greater than my impurity. I tried to convince myself that, after all, He is God: of course He is greater than me. But that is a difficult thing to believe when you believe you are the blot of black ink on what otherwise would have been a perfectly white garment.

The reality, as I began to unfold in my last blog, is that my assumed impurity was no more real than the possibility that being dunked in a lake could secure my passage to heaven–as if I hadn’t ever done that before on any other hot summer. And even where it remotely real, His truly is greater than mine, and my life is found in His.

It is a difficult–perhaps impossible–thought for the church at large to receive, taught as we have been for so long of the existence and prevalence of evil in the nature of humanity. In a discussion regarding those who have recently come into the church who may practice manipulating tactics and grabs for power and attention–the usual repertoire of sins such as substance and sexual uses and abuses not to be wholly forgotten–I found myself wondering whether the issue was not more about our being able to discern the needs of these people behind the acting out of their shadows. Had I been mentored by someone in my teen years able to perceive the legitimate and desperate needs of my sexuality, who could have helped me to understand that the struggle I was perceiving was not a contest between sin and righteousness but my own Self trying to be known by me, how much better could I now know and accept myself?

My surprise then was, how can you blindly call these things ‘sinful’ or ‘problematic’ and not have the discernment to see the genuine need of the person? 

Because I don’t see ‘sin’, or ‘sinful habits’, anymore. I see brokenness. I see the authenticity in people severed in so many ways and the hopeless attempts of the subconscious to counterbalance. I see the genuine need–and wound–behind attention-seeking, and grabbing for power and control. I see the genuine need–and wound–behind much addiction. I have interacted with many people who willingly harm their bodies to the point of serious danger in many, many ways because they have a wound within that they cannot find any way to reconcile. The very small amount I do perceive should break the heart of the church–it does mine.

I want to address something that I have wrestled with for quite some time: the letter of 1 John. 

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our[a] joy may be complete.

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

-1 John 1

I believe the majority of the teaching and preaching I have heard which references 1st John carries this message: don’t fool yourself; You are hopelessly bad.

I have seen it used as definite proof against the idea that anyone could be sinless because of Jesus’ finished work on the cross–in effect, a defence against Universalism, the completed work of the cross and any suggestion that a christian doesn’t need to continue to repent for their sins.

The theme of the book is quite simple: John lays out, ‘this is the nature of God, therefore anything contrary to this is not Godly. This is what light is, this is what dark is. It is starkly black and white.

But direct your attention to the introduction, particularly, “that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our[a] joy may be complete. This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”

Is it too bold to wonder why John and his fellows would consider a condemning message joyful? But condemnation is not the reality here, the reality is that God is sovereign, and we share fellowship with Him. We ARE in the Light. This is what our lives look like because of that truth. John is writing black-and-white truth absolutely–the reality of the Risen Christ and a world bound to His fate. I understand why he is writing so that his joy may be full because it brings me the same joy to share with others the reality of who they are in Christ–light, love, righteousness, sinless…perfect. You are in Christ–and in Christ is no darkness at all; it is a declaration of exactly the reality of the Last Adam.

There is an image which is an underlying theme on my mind tonight; it is a theme in the movie The Last Samurai; after his capture Nathan Algren meets Katsumoto, the samurai leader responsible for his imprisonment. On approaching a cherry tree, Katsumoto tells Algren, “The perfect blossom is a rare thing. You could spend your life looking for one, and it would not be a wasted life.” By the end of the movie Algren and Katsumoto are inseparable brothers, and Katsumoto, dying in the arms of Algren observes with his last breaths, “Perfect. They… are all… perfect…”

693ziltp9scan4

I’m not asking for a redefinition of sin. I’m not asking to change the Bible–on the contrary, I am asking that the truth of the Bible be honoured as it is given. They are all perfect, by one sacrifice by the glorious plan of the Incarnation. They are all perfect, and they are all in the Great Dance of Father, Son, and Spirit–and me.

I have to ask myself–because I do not see with eyes not my own–if I have discovered the holiness and righteousness and authenticity of something I once deemed sinful and abominable, why should I not expect the same experience to be possible in others? Why would I ever need to resort to assuming sin in a person when the sin I presumed in myself was a false perception? It is not so hard any more to reconcile what goes on in the world in light of the reality of the gospel when I now understand much more of the wrong I did myself in believing I was anything less than perfect. The question changes from ‘who can I save,’ to ‘who will share my joy with me?’

 

The Untold

I was eleven–or ten-going-on.

I remember certain details of the day clearly; I remember that it was probably the last time I ever cut the legs off my jeans (because that’s just what you did when your knees wore out).

I wonder if my older siblings remember; most of the family was out for the evening somewhere and the rest of us sat down to watch Along Came Polly. I was eleven–or ten-going-on, and the question was briefly queried as to whether I should be watching such a movie with them, but without any action taken. It seems silly now, it was a strictly PG-13 all-under-the-covers rom-com, but it was the first sex scene I’d ever seen.

And it caused something to stir within me.

After the movie that night, I wanted more than anything to explore this mystery, to know it and be known by it. Being the imaginative and artistic young soul, I sallied several attempts to fill in the blanks on paper, to capture the essence somehow of the longing I was experiencing. I had no inkling of what was taking place–what I could make take place–in my body, but I was keen to explore it. My sexuality had awoken.

I’d only ever heard the term pornography used once. Upon asking what pornography was, I was told that it was pictures of people naked. I didn’t understand why anyone would want to have their picture taken naked, nor why it would be at all interesting to have a ‘porn stash’ under your mattress, as the initial joke insinuated. But as my curiosity and desire grew, and after a misspelled web address faced me with a page with a link entitled simply ‘Pornography’, one quiet evening I decided to finally uncover the mystery for myself.

I was surprised–and disgusted–by what I saw. To the credit of my own innocence I did not understand intellectually that looking at pornography might be wrong–even though I might have jumped at the slightest noise anywhere in the rest of the house–it was simply a matter of discovery and understanding for me. But pornography was too great a substance, an overload to my shrouded understanding. I felt dirty, and deep gui lt, or shame. I don’t recall what brought me back after that initial click, but this isn’t really about pornography.

At first it was innocent enough; I figured out how to reproduce what I had first experienced, and continued to do so regularly. And then doubts began to filter in; what if this is wrong? How could it be? But in my mind I decided that what I termed ‘simulated sex,’ was at least borderline. What if I am sinning? At my age and level of understanding, sexuality was nowhere near being on the sin-spectrum taught in Sabbath-school class, but I still began to beg and plead with God to forgive me every time, assuring him even with tears at times that I was sorry, and that it would be the last time.

And so I began to banish and demonise my sexuality. I built the belief around me that I had to find the off-switch and turn it off until I was older, married and ready to be sexual; then I could turn it on, and everything would be fine because I would be married. 

If you’ve followed my writing for long, you know the rest of the story: I wrote my first testimony outlining my ‘lust problem’  and depression in the spring of 2007 when I was twelve and had fought to repress my sexuality for over a year. I became spiritual–and it was a genuine, albeit immature spirituality–to further fight my ‘lust’ and growing depression. I remember going to a conference in 2006 and vowing to God there, ‘I’m never going to give in to my lust again.’ Of course I failed my expectations. One day I found the recounting of Paul’s thorn in the flesh in 2 Corinthians 12 and I adopted it as my own struggle against my sexuality–this is just a messenger of Satan, something to keep me lowly and humble, to let God be strong for me.

I want to tell you how wrong I was.

I want to tell you that I mourn the day I began to think that my sexuality was unacceptable. I want to tell you that because I repressed my sexuality, and in combination with desensitising myself with a regular porn habit, when I did get married and figured I was in the free and clear finally, I didn’t find sex exciting, or good, or intimate because by then I had buried my sexuality so deeply that I didn’t know how to get it back, and the shame I felt in my sexuality kept me from wanting it back.

But I want to tell you something even more important: I’ve come to the understanding that because I repressed my sexuality, my sexuality acted out. Because I outlawed all sexual expression, my sexual expression became uncontrollable. My sexuality is and always has been an integral part of me, because I am a human, created to be a sexual being. I thought it was all about being pure and not doing anything deemed by the church and society as gross, unacceptable and sinful, but in pursuit of purity I disowned part of me. I’ve never been fully able to wrap my brain around the wording Jesus whispered to me years ago saying, ‘It’s not about your purity, son, it’s about Mine,’ but they burn in my mind now with the understanding that growing up whole was more important than any person’s idea about purity. am his purity, there is nothing so foolish as for me to think I could have tarnished his image by sexual expression.

Pornography is another story, but as I said; this isn’t really about pornography. It began as purely biological curiosity for me, but became simply another device by which my ever-constricted sexuality dared to be known by me. I have always been your friend. 

I mourn the intrigue I taught myself to distrust; I mourn the discovering I never allowed myself to take properly, and the mess that came of trying to disown Myself. I mourn not being able to experience the wonder of sexuality after repressing my sensitivities and blaming it on pornographic saturation. I mourn the years spent believing myself a monster, and the countless nights in moral and ethical despair; it’s no wonder to me now, understanding just what I was doing to myself, why I was deeply depressed. I mourn never knowing boyhood sexuality as a wonderful and beautiful thing to be celebrated and explored.

And now you know the story as it has never been known before. I did not know it myself until just recently when a dam somewhere way back in my subconscious broke and it all came flooding out with an all-but-forgotten memory of the first sex scene I ever saw. My sexuality is no longer a problem. Pornography is no longer a moral issue but an intimacy issue. I now understand why not fighting my sexuality’s pornographic outlet actually helped me to need it less, and why trying to stop was actually a hopeless attempt to thwart the Genuine Me, my own Beloved. I now understand–albeit only a little more than before–Myself.

The Hid [A Shadow Narrative]

I was a boy when the stranger appeared. It came as a veiled mystery, beauty and passion emanating through the folds of an only almost opaque cloak. I was instantly intrigued; I set out to Know the mystery, and she began to take vague form beneath the pen of my imagination, teased by glimpses through the veil.

I experimented, searching out ways to awaken her, to coax her from her divine mystery, but one day I cheated; I approached the veil and took hold of her folds; I parted the veil, just ever so slightly–and found myself dazzlingly blind. I reached in my hand, and jerked it back again at the pricking of wicked thorns against my fingers.

I left her there for a time; I was bewildered by the enmity of the thorns so that I forgot the beauty and had only the image of needle-sharp spears. But my ears were attuning themselves to her song, and so I returned.

I went deeper the next time–ignoring the scratches of the thorns, for I told myself that was all they were, determined as I was to caress the Mystery. Yet I still could not reach her, and the wonder was so unrelievedly great that eventually I had to retract my reach for hopelessness.

When I removed my hand from the folds it was torn and bleeding bright red. I felt the ardour of mystery; I had never seen my own blood before, warm and metallic on my skin. But the aroma was immediately nauseating, and my stomach was in knots with it. My innocence had surfaced and I could not undo it.

The next time I tried to part the thorns with both hands, still determined to her mystery, but when I attempted to retrieve my reach the thorns became barbs and tore gaping wounds.

And I could not help but return.

After only a few trespassed visits her brilliance became dark to me. The light pulsed deeper and deeper within, brighter and brighter, but more distant with every visit. The thorns became dark claws which first drug me in, and then regurgitated me, cut and bleeding back without the veil. I blamed her for seducing me to her beauty and mystery, and she became a demon, black as death within the veil. I cried for deliverance from this foe but deliverance came not, and now I wore her like a blood-soaked cloak, her barbs sinking ever deeper.

I heard a voice that intimated friendship with her, but what I believed I heard was merely a distant promise that her power would be wrested from me if I could only last that long. I held a hindering hope, and maintained my animosity.

I fought against her for what seemed lifetimes; and she fought back for mere survival and recognition. But my vision was filled with only monsters and demons, black terrors in the night which engulfed and ravaged me. I banished her to the very depths, but found that I lived in the depths with her–but for rare moments when I found myself rising the great stair to a life without her, only to stumble in the middle and find myself back in the dark and slime of the depths again.

I survived only by continually defining myself intentionally as her opposite, and by emphasising our separateness, and she survived by the thorns she lay in my flesh, and the blood which issued from each fresh wound. Who will deliver me from this body of death? I wailed endlessly. How will I ever be the same again?

I feared her always, reaching out as she did from behind her black shrouds. You’re dead to me, I would scream, Remain in your grave, foul fiend! Often I would tire, and she would cloud my mind in despair.

And then one day I stopped fighting. I thought that I had truly won, for when I stopped fighting, she ceased to grow stronger, and was contented to the shadows. I saw less of her, and when I did her fury was less vile and shorter-lived. My mind was no longer filled with her, and the wounds and scars covering my body began to heal and fade faster than the fresh ones were appearing. But she was not finished with me yet.

You see, I awoke one day, and I found that there was no mystery where I knew there had been. There was no longer tender discovery, but only dried decrepit vines and sword-like thorns. I knew then that I had lost the mystery, desensitised in my trespass, and because I no longer saw her mystery, I no longer tasted her wonder or smelled the scents of discovery.

And I mourned. I mourned the death of wonder, my ignorant vanquishing of mystery.

And then I heard a whisper: Always has she been your truest friend.

Tomorrowland and the Kingdom of Heaven

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.    – 1 John 1:1-3

Moments ago I finished re-watching a movie which has jetted its way into my top favorites; Tomorrowland. If you haven’t watched Tomorrowland, it comes with my highest recommendation:

Bound by a shared destiny, a teen bursting with scientific curiosity and a former boy-genius inventor embark on a mission to unearth the secrets of a place somewhere in time and space that exists in their collective memory.  -IMDb

Tomorrowland.

You’re probably wondering what an obscure imagined dimension called “Tomorrowland” and the adventures of our two protagonists to find it have to do with the Kingdom of Heaven. I’ll tell you, but first a little synopsis:

Frank Walker–the former boy-genius–grew up in Tomorrowland after being invited in on account of being a dreamer. Later he would be exiled back to the ‘normal world’ where he would live on in cynicism and regret for a device he had created.

Casey Newton–the bursting teen–is chosen by Athena, an AI (in body a fifteen-year-old girl) once tasked to recruiting dreamers to Tomorrowland and incidentally the very AI who recruited and was befriended by Frank Walker years before. Athena slips Casey a special pin, which when Casey discovers and touches, launches her into an immersive ‘commercial’ for Tomorrowland; she finds herself in a vast field of golden grass and a shining city in the distance. She is filled with an insatiable desire to find out what this place is, and where this mysterious pin came from.

Athena leads Casey to Frank who is living as a recluse locked away in his house in the back of beyond. Oh, and did I mention robots are chasing her? Through a series of comical events, Frank, Casey and Athena all wind up together, out to save the world.

Spoiler Alert.

The trouble with the world is that it’s going to end in 58 days, as predicted by Frank Walker’s device. The device acts like a massive radio antenna tuning into the future. The device is now in the hands of the stern Governor Nix who is intent on the apocalypse. Casey hypothesizes that Frank’s device isn’t merely ‘receiving’ the future but broadcasting it to the entire world, feeding humanity visions of their apocalyptic future and essentially becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. They explain this discovery to Governor Nix, but it is now that they realize he doesn’t want to save the world anymore–in fact, he is deliberately allowing the device to continue.

I want to jump ahead a little bit, because it’s the scene at the end of the movie that blew everything out of the water for me. The entire story is being retold by Casey and Frank to a new generation of dreamer-seeking AI as they embark into the world. The final scenes show a variety of selected dreamers finding their pins; as soon as they touch them, they wake up together in the vast golden plain, a shining Tomorrowland in the distance.

tomorrowland_whiskytree_vfx_03

(I don’t mean to spoil the ending for you, but you can take in the full experience of the moment in this video)

And that’s when I saw the Kingdom.

If you asked me what I’ve been learning in the last couple years, I would give you a swirling mural of the true gospel, the kingdom of heaven and the image of “I AM” in and over all life–especially in those routine and mundane moments religion so quickly writes off as secular. Tomorrowland sums up so much of what has gone without words to describe.

Tomorrowland is the Kingdom. It is a place unseen by the world at large, but an ever-present reality. “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” the prophet cried two millennia ago–

But the sad narrative is that the keepers of the kingdom, the Governor Nixes of the world–indeed, religion itself–did not truly believe him, or the King who declared the same of His kingdom. The Governor Nixes see a doomed world, but they believed that the solution was to show the world how bad it really was–to broadcast their impending doom so that they could do something about it. The religious Governor Nixes refuse Tomorrowland to the world because they believe that to let ‘bad’ people in will corrupt the kingdom–the irony being that in all of Tomorrowland we literally only see one living resident: Governor Nix, himself.

And Governor Nix’s plan is self-defeating because to immerse a person in their future doom is to bring their doom upon them. The world receives his subliminal broadcast of the future and the apocalypse culture rises; people embrace and welcome doom because, as he explains: they want a future that they don’t have to do anything for today. And so Governor Nix is no longer interested in saving the world but purging it in and by its own fate.

But the Kingdom of Heaven is here. It isn’t even as far as another dimension, it is right here, all around us. “The kingdom of Heaven is here–and here.” Balian’s father tells him, pointing to his mind, and his heart [The Kingdom of Heaven]. 2000 years ago it was proclaimed; it was declared even before the gospel, and the gospel has come! But the religious Nixes live in a paradox of being ‘in’ the Kingdom but unable to see the Kingdom. They are like the disciples in a way, expecting to see Jesus rise up with a sword and an army on the earth to destroy the reign of the Romans; “Well nothing spectacular has happened yet,” they say, “We haven’t seen Jesus on the clouds of glory; how can His kingdom be here yet?” They justify their disappointments and long-harbored resentment at the apparent slowness of His coming with the explanation that something which God declares to be ‘at hand in this present generation’ can really be thousands of years (or more) away, and they have missed the Kingdom reality.

It is the dreamers who are waking up in the golden field with the Kingdom before them. True, what they have seen is only a preview, but the reality is all around them to be discovered, unseen but not without experience. You experience the Kingdom in your mind, and in your heart. You experience the Kingdom in your family, in your friends, in your dealings with the people you meet on a daily basis. In your art, your music, your baseball and babies and cookouts. Not everyone knows about the Kingdom in that they do not know that they live in and experience it, but none have been left outside of it.

You see, the Good News that John wrote about–That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life– “It’s here!”, he says, “We’ve experienced it, and we want you to know about it so that you can experience it, too!”

But O religion, O Church. You broadcast to the world not the wonder of Tomorrowland, but a perceived imminent doom. You’ve become the cynical Governor Nix, first showing the world the extent of its danger with the intention of frightening people straight into the Kingdom. It worked for a while, but it created a false image of the King, and when people decided that they didn’t like the image you gave them, you became fixated, disillusioned, embittered with a world you essentially created–an apocalyptic self-fulfilling prophecy.

I know a young man in whom I see desire for the Kingdom. He does not realize it, but the deep passions he is cultivating are Kingdom passions. He does not realize that the nature he was born with is Kingdom nature–and of course religion will not tell him so; religion will tell him that he must at the very least have his nature changed so that he can enter the Kingdom of Heaven; “Get saved.” What Governor Nix doesn’t understand is that he is already saved. Remember the good news? Jesus did that 2000 years ago on the cross. And the ‘getting saved’ part was only the drop in the bucket: what Jesus really did in his incarnation was to bring this young man into God himself, and to bring God himself into this young man–and indeed, into everyone. That’s right; everyone belongs to Tomorrowland already!

The gospel–the good news–is about letting others know. Validating the I AM in people. It is about showing people that they already live with the Kingdom all around them, that they experience it, and that their experiences of it are valid. They may not realize that what they experience is indeed Kingdom; in a world permeated by the Govenor Nixes, you may not, either. But the reality is all around us; we are all dreamers, and our Tomorrowland is at hand.

When Love Hurts

I’ve written about this before – superficially.

But tonight I want  need to be a little more vulnerable, and tell the story how it is.

Quite some time back–almost two years back now, actually–I wrote a series on Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. What I failed avoided disclosing was that when I got to chapter five I drew a blank, and I fired that blank into a very mechanical unofficial series finale, but I wouldn’t really get the goods on Ephesians 5 for a few more months.

You see that thing is that at the time I could mechanically understand what Paul taught about marriage; the article I wrote looked very insightful, even. But my marriage was a mess, and had been from nearly day 1.

Actually, it started before day 1, because before day 1 I felt stuck; the choice was no longer my own when guilt and shame goaded me into saying ‘I do’ to someone who I knew I ‘did’ but I really ‘didn’t.’ I’ve lived with enough regret to know that saying ‘If I’d just…’ is a toxic moment for me, but if I’d just waited a little longer, things might have gone a lot better and I might have been able to let my ‘yes’ be a true and full and honest ‘Yes!’ I’m not saying any of this because I was not sincere at my wedding or about my vows, but in retrospect the backdrop which led me to it was so very unhealthy for both of us.

I laughed today, reading Jefferson and Alyssa Bethke’s book, Love that Lasts; Alyssa was recounting:

When I was in college, I’d pray for my future husband. I asked the Lord to make our relationship a “were it not for God” one. You know, the kind that is so evidently created by God, the couple who is so good together that only God could’ve written their love story because it was too good to be true, too beautiful a story to have just happened. I wanted a relationship that I could tell others was “all God.” I wanted to be able to point to God’s faithfulness and share how He answered all those prayers for all those years and, well, He did just that. [Love That Lasts, P. 77]

It reminds me of my always wanting an ‘amazing grace turn-around’ testimony involving heavy substance abuse and a dramatic breakthrough. I laughed because I knew what she had coming to ask that of Father; you don’t have ‘were it not all for God‘ relationships without pain, and heartache, loss and sacrifice–without requiring at the very least a complete and total loss of your Self. Is that what you really want to ask God for?

I didn’t ask God for that. But it turns out, often Father brings you what you need rather than what you ask for; I got it.

Two years into my marriage I thought we were at rock bottom. And I knew I was the main contributor; I was physically and emotionally abusive and manipulative, and I had a deep-seated anger inside of me that wouldn’t quit. By year three I had largely learned to control my anger by indifference, and that is how year four showed me what rock-bottom really meant.

I buried myself in indifference. Deep down I was still full of rage because now I was the silent martyr, quietly enduring the hell of living in proximity with someone I no longer knew, and no longer wanted. Guilt fuelled that burning ember because I wanted so desperately to be allowed to give up and walk away but I believed I would never live down that kind of failure, and so I stayed to the hurt of my once-best friend. It hasn’t been a pretty journey, but it has been nothing but ‘all God’.

In the beginnings of year three was when I wrote here on Ephesians – can you imagine now just how flat I fell expounding on the 5th chapter now? There was not a single part of me that understood a word of the relation of Christ and the Church to myself and my bride–until four months later when, sitting in a youth conference (with absolutely no conjunction with what was going on around me in the moment) it clicked. I’m supposed to love my wife the same way that Jesus loves me. I am supposed to forgive my wife the same way that Jesus forgives me. I am supposed to sacrifice myself for her the same way Jesus sacrificed himself for me–to death. I know for a fact I cannot tell you with words what full extent of meaning hit me in that moment – I’ve tried; it was like being hit by a bus travelling 200 km/h with a massive truth that in all one moment allowed me to see the depths of the dungeon I had locked myself up in, and set the key to every door in the place just outside my cell.

And if I’m being honest the raging indifference in me for a moment went ‘Yes: now your martyrdom is justified!‘ And as my incredibly sacrificial wife had been the major planning contributor to the whole trip, as a result the entire weekend and even weeks and months leading up to it had been an incredibly stressful time full of disappointment and hurt and anger for her as my support was increasingly withdrawn as the crucial time approached; it all culminated in spending the majority of the trip vacillating between explosive anger and total denial of existence on both sides. There was nothing I would’ve wanted more than to justify it all by my saintly indifference–after all, isn’t love long-suffering? But I knew I wasn’t sacrificing a drop of blood for her by being indifferent to her hurt-fueled anger; a real sacrifice would mean looking in the face of all the wrongs done me (I was holding more than a few hostage and knew right where to find them) and forgive with no expectation of kick-back.

And for a while, I did it. She might still remember those two or three weeks of what must have seemed like open heavens. But though it was genuine sacrifice on my part there had been no lasting change within me, and so when the next fight cropped up it was only a very small step back into the old rutted path I’d worn so smooth, and now I really did have justification for my self-appointed martyrdom because had sacrificed; I’d tried and failed and now the ball and the blame were in her court.

There is, of course, a whole second side to this story; perhaps if you ever get to know her well enough you might hear it one day.

I gave up. I went back to indifference and from artificial indifference I found true indifference, and I stopped caring about all but complete and utter failure–and my public image. Even at that, I cared less and less that the continual anger she held toward me became more and more visible in the way she treated me both privately and publicly; I deserved it. And I knew that if it went on like that I could write my failure off on her because that is what people would see; a patient man finally pushed off the end of his rope. My failure would remain private, and I would get the much-needed relief of freedom. Even scathing (likely unbeknown to them) quips from others about my would-be unfaithfulness began–I say only began–to lose their sting to me.

The days grew more despairing; we found a convenient excuse for trial separation, and I had every intention of it continuing when the ‘trial’ period was up with not an ounce left in me to care anymore about guilt over failure; and perhaps my motives had begun to be redeemed because by this point I had been considering for months the benefit to her of my letting go, no longer being an ongoing source of fresh pain and anger. I didn’t want to hurt her anymore, but more than anything, I didn’t want to be hurt anymore.

Until it finally happened.

The words of the song go,

I wonder when did I lose your heart
Your heart, your heart?
And whether we can go back to the start
The start, the start?
I keep feeling like we fall apart
Better than we fall in love
I keep feeling like we fall apart
And then we got to fight to fall back in love again

[Shake This Feeling; Jon & Tim Foreman]

It was like the Foreman brothers had looked right into my heart and written the story they saw there; the whole song was words I hadn’t known I was desperate to be able to say out loud – recalling it a few months later I’m still fighting tears and very raw emotions. I asked her to lunch and I played her the song on the way and everything changed in a few shaking heart beats. And it was all God. 

We were at breaking point and it had literally been do-or-die this time around, but God did. And He continues to do; there is no other way I could continue to choose her or put her first but by that, and no other way the anger, resentment and bitterness could be finally dissolved from my heart.

My marriage has not been okay, but for what feels like the first time, hope is alive in me. I told a friend recently, “It’s just such a relief to be able to finally relax and let things be okay.

I tell her often, “I love you more,” and recently she stopped trying to get the final “No, I love you more,” rebuttal in. But where it was cute and airy before, it packs a sobering weight now. In the thick I had to choose her. I had to choose her or leave her and I spent a lot of time in no-mans-land thinking I could get off with having done neither. But when the time to sincerely stay or go came I didn’t walk away. It might have been on a continued whim of indecision then, but every day since I have felt the weight of that choice, and the subsequent choices every day – I choose you. I choose you. choose you. I choose you. There isn’t a day that goes by that I do not have to intentionally make that choice. And she? All she has to do is respond. I love you more.

As I’m giving this post its pre-publishing finishing touches, I’m reminded again tonight of another song that echoes in my mind often:

All attempts have failed / All my heads are tails
She’s got teary eyes / I’ve got reasons why
I’m losing ground / And gaining speed
I’ve lost myself / Or most of me
I’m ready for the final precipice
But you haven’t lost me yet
No, you haven’t lost me yet
I’ll sing until my heart caves in
No, you haven’t lost me yet
These days pass me by / I dream with open eyes
Nightmares haunt my days / Visions blur my nights
I’m so confused / What’s true or false
What’s fact or fiction after all
I feel like I’m an apparition’s pet

But you haven’t lost me yet
You haven’t lost me yet
I’ll run until my heart breaks in
No, you haven’t lost me yet

If it doesn’t break / If it doesn’t break
Yeah, if it doesn’t break your heart it isn’t love
Now if it doesn’t break your heart it’s not enough
It’s when you’re breaking down with your insides coming out
It’s when you find out what your heart is made up of
And you haven’t lost me yet
No, you haven’t lost me yet
I’ll sing until my heart caves in
No, you haven’t lost me yet

[Yet; Jon & Tim Foreman]

The lines, “she’s got teary eyes / I’ve got reasons why” resonate to my core, and filled me with a desperate hopelessness in the middle of our worst because here again the Foreman brothers had bared my soul in song for what felt like all to see, and it was a cutting truth. I still feel consternation at the idea, “If it doesn’t break your heart it isn’t love / if it doesn’t break your heart it’s not enough” because why would love require heartbreak? Yet my heart was broken, but not nearly to the extent of damage I saw hers in. The moment it dawned on me that love lets its heart be ultimately broken, and that we were both still here in spite of it, hanging on by the thinnest thread of a “Yet…”, And all this time I actually let myself begin to believe I didn’t love you anymore. But you haven’t lost me yet.

And it hasn’t been like I thought it would be, but after all of the fighting and tears and heartbreak, on the other side I can’t explain to you now how we all of a sudden communicate much more effectively, pick our fights much more carefully, and are swayed much less easily by the remaining turbulence of two become one; it is literally beyond me to put into words the utter surprise–and the utter relief to know that love has proved itself once again. It has been a messy journey, but it has been nothing but God through and through.

 

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

-Ephesians 5:22-33

As I Gather [The Incompletes Collection]

I’ve had a small… realization.

My realization was this, as I sat in a wall-to-wall filled workshop at Youth Conference today. We were asked to think of a moment of happiness we’ve had.

And I could not remember one. Not one.

It isn’t that I haven’t had happy moments; I know I’ve had happy moments. But I could not dredge one thing up. And immediately my mind goes to all the speakers who have talked about being free from bondage and I want to say “Yeah, I’m free…” while half of me comes back with “No you’re not…” and the other half of me says “What bondage?”

Because there are obvious things – things I’ve shared – that have been sources of bondage to me, but the truth is the obvious ones aren’t the ones sticking out; I don’t even know what, or if I’m in bondage–but I cannot remember one single moment of happiness in my life. I hear this question echoing over and over in my head, ‘Think of a moment of happiness…’ and my mind just goes completely blank.

And it still does. Maybe it’s just my extreme idealistic biased mind but no moment I can think of really fits the bill, and frankly I can’t think of very many specific moments. Like uh.. am I even alive here?

The truth is I’ve always been reclusive, but over the course of the last few years I can feel myself drifting further back into those ways; still sociable–now more than ever as my comfort levels have expanded–but much less engaged. I can point to times when I was well-engaged in my relationships–now those were good, happy moments–but my circle of close friends has waned to little more than a mud puddle. It’s not good to be alone.

Father whatever sort of season this is, I don’t much like it.

But I guess this is what they all meant when they said some people are only for a season. But I digress. Perhaps the only bondage I have is wishing for more.

*                               *                                 *

I bumped into someone recently who I’ve been acquainted with most of my life, but like so many others, haven’t seen in quite a while.

One thought that often comes to me is, those people that I know from a distance, who I’ve grown up around and some of whom have had impacts on my life–when I see them now and then around (driving the opposite direction on the road, two customers ahead or behind in line in the grocery store, passing through my workplaces, etc.) Do they recognize me?

I mean if I recognize them, it would be ridiculous to suppose they wouldn’t recognize me–but…do you recognize me?

Do you ackowledge my presence–that it is indeed….me? (And that you have known me?) I know it has been a few years, that I have grown and changed–somewhat–and maybe you can’t imagine approaching me as you might have but…do you see me?

This time, this person that I bumped into answered the question for me with a, “Hi, how are you? … I haven’t seen you around in a long time.”

*                               *                                 *

As the minutes tick on into the New Year, the gathering is nearly over. Today I drive back home after a three-day ‘weekend’ to start work again tomorrow; until the next holiday brings us all back together again, this is it for me.

I know I’ve written about this before, but something came to my mind again through the holidays, it’s a song my family used to sing occasionally at the dinner table; a casual ritual from days gone. But when it sprang back to my mind (and I realized that I could actually remember all the words although in all those years I never really knew them) I realized again what it has always meant to me.

As our family gathers ’round this table / Where this meal has been prepared

Let all our hearts be grateful / As we offer up this prayer…

Our Father in heaven / For this meal we’ve been given

We want to say, “Thank-you, thank-you,” from our hearts

Bless the hands that prepared it / And now as we share it

Would You stay with us, and be our guest of honor

Would You stay with us, and be our guest of honor

Amen.

If my parents ever did anything to teach me the values of prayer, family, and the connection of the meal table, it was all wrapped up in this simple song.

*                               *                                 *

Meet Lexi;

20180204_235715

This gorgeous calico joined my little furry family a couple months back and settled right in happily. She is the most friendly cat I’ve ever met, and adorably cuddly–she chose this position herself.

And tonight as I’m listening to her soft snore-purr next to me I’m thinking about one thing.

Lexi is a rescue kitty. I discovered her at work one day (I won’t even begin to surmise how a stray ends up at a landfill in the winter kilometers from the nearest home) when I noticed muffled meowing under the floor of the cabin serving as our office–and upon investigation, noticed tracks outside in the snow. After two weeks, although I had not seen even a glimpse of her yet, she was responding to my voice with the most pitiable meows, and I finally coaxed her into the open with a few bread crusts from my lunch. This was within the first 60 seconds of our officially meeting:

20171116_121843

She was badly matted all the way around her neck, she was starved for want of food and she was starved for want of human contact.

I don’t mind telling you, I don’t really like cats – but how could I say no to that? So the next day, she came home with me.

It took a few weeks, both to get her back up to a normal weight, and to cut all the mats out of her fur, she being obviously relieved by the freedom but most impatient with the process which usually involved scissors and a lot of squirming on her part. But here she is, a now well-fed, mat-free cat with a warm house to live in and an obnoxiously huge pup who never gets tired of being swatted on the nose and hissed at. This might just be the life, and if those contented snore-purrs are anything to go by, I’d say she agrees.

I’m thinking about rest tonight–ironically, because I’m losing sleep with every word I write. Ironically because I’ve felt so un-rested and overwhelmed and I asked Father for one thing – rest.

And I look over at Lexi, peacefully sleeping next to me and that’s the kind of rest I want; the kind that isn’t worried anymore about the next meal because all she has to do is meow her most piteous meow to get a top-up; that isn’t curling up on the cold ground under an unheated shack; that isn’t skinny and starving both for food and love. A rest that is cared for and confident. And I realize, I’ve already had it.

I realize, I couldn’t have left a steady job (that I was actually content at) to move back to my hometown with zero work certainty, without that rest. Not with the amount of anxiety I normally carry around. I couldn’t have spent this last summer completely

29511016_10156324690062053_7210513218408941391_nunsure about the future of the part-time work I did acquire knowing that it was all coming to a certain end in the fall without that rest. And it’s not just that I’m not easily phased, because I am. And I’m normally anxious about things. But for the last two years of uncertainty I haven’t worried one bit and I was so at rest that I didn’t even clue in to the fact that I wasn’t worrying about things that I should probably be worrying about. And listen, when you only work 2 days a week you are not short on time; I had all the time in the world to worry, I certainly wasn’t preoccupied. But I didn’t and I can’t credit that to any kind of stolidness of my own; I found my rest.

 

The preceding are short and/or unfinished drafts written over the span of the last year, each containing a drop of very deep meaning and emotion for me, experiences which are wordlessly poignant, and therefore much more brief than what I typically publish stand-alone. As always, thanks for reading, and I hope you’ve gleaned something of these.

Christ-Sensitive

I’ve been desensitized.

The image fills my mind of a newborn foal, seconds old in the world; it is being toweled off and rubbed down–imprinted on and desensitized to human contact.

It is the only way I can explain the realities, and the unrealities of my world. And you, I think, have been desensitized, too.

You see, I’m beginning to wake up to a bold state of things: if I believe the Gospel then I cannot deny that the incarnation means that God in Christ is in all; that in being birthed into our world Yhwh Elohim baptized himself in our human existence; that at the cross the Son spread his final, eternal “No!” to the Fall across the universe and redeemed Adam. I cannot deny the writer of the book declaring that this Son ascended to the right hand of the Father–though never having truly left the great trinitarian dance even at the last–carrying all of humanity with him, seating us in heavenly places.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. -Ephesians 2:4-7

I cannot deny this Son’s own word declaring that anyone who believed in Him would never die, or that He is the source of a wellspring the drought of which he who drinks will never hunger or thirst again.

So why does my experience disagree? Somehow Yhwh Elohim himself lives inside of me. Somehow I can never die, even though the evidence surrounds me that one day–barring the ever-nearing coming of the King of Glory–I will die.  Somehow, God is in every person and every person is in God and still evil persists in the world. Somehow.

I’ve been desensitized.

The True Reality is that since Jesus took me into himself, I’ve never gone a day without him. And the truth is, that didn’t happen within my lifetime or at my choosing; it happened within his, and by his choosing. I’ve never lived a day outside of Jesus.

“But if the Spirit were literally in me, wouldn’t my life be radically different?” You may ask. Your life is radically different; you’ve been desensitized. 

And on any given day I can touch it, too. I can peel back the layers of callous and feel something awakened within me. The playful breeze, the joyful birdsong, the billowing clouds and the trees rushing and creaking in the wind suddenly all has the breath and voice of Yhwh in a moment, I get goose pimples and I say I’ve “experienced” God. But the True Reality is I am always experiencing God. I’ve been desensitized, but the glory goes on; the Bush always burns, and the glimpses of what we might call ‘glory‘ are fleeting touches to sensitivities intentionally honed by religion to make a God who is powerful enough, but with a short attention and largely uninterested.

Some time back I was asked the question, ‘How do you practice the Presence?’ And my answer then was that I have been learning to see the Presence in the mundane moments–in the boredom, in the empty. The Bush burning in the middle of the desert.

My answer now is I don’t need to practice the Presence any more than I need to practice breathing; sure if I think about it I can breathe better in certain high-energy situations–jogging, for example–but the reality is that I am breathing every minute of every day without a single second’s thought and so too the Presence. I didn’t decide to begin breathing.

So too, the Presence.

He’s around me constantly,” as the song playing in the background declares.

I have been desensitized. And so have you.

Because you see, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you have come from; you are in Jesus. It does not matter your ethnicity, your gender or your political position; you are in Jesus. It does not matter whether you identify as a Christian, or what particular brand of Christianity you cleave to; you are in Jesus. And it doesn’t matter what religion or the church has told you about prerequisite prayers and human nature – you are in Jesus.

And you are not in Jesus as a sinner saved by grace; you are in Jesus as an heir of the Second Adam. You can’t even identify with the first Adam because his lineage and the curse thereof was redeemed in Jesus before you were ever a twinkle in your momma’s eye. You can’t identify as a sinner saved by grace because you were not born in sin but in righteousness. 

Can you believe that? Or am I getting too fantastical for you? You’ve been desensitized. You’ve been desensitized to the Wonder of the Gospel, to the Eternal Mystery of Eternal Christ in you, the hope of glory. You’ve been desensitized to the Lamb slain from the foundations of the world to the definite and complete perfection of all.

11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. -Hebrews 10:11-14

You were born into the lineage of Jesus–Yhwh in the flesh–not because of a choice you made to follow Jesus later in life–not because of a choice your parents made–but because of a choice Jesus made 2000-some-odd years ago; ‘I have come to do Your will, oh God’ (Hebrews 10:7) You were born into the fate of the Son of God because He placed Himself into your fate, and in-so-doing He overcame your fate and wrapped you and all of the rest of humanity into His fate; ascending to Father’s right hand.

But you were born and from the moment you took your first breath you were rubbed down with a broken philosophy, a broken religion and a broken reality that told you one thing: “God” is too distant to be the life flooding your lungs, imprinted on a false reality. But there is better, and He is all around you. You do not have to look for fantastical things, for all you must do is look: there is nothing you can see, feel, touch, taste or hear that is not bound up in the fate of the Incarnate Christ. Good, or bad; and that possibility should resound with nothing but joy and peace if you can see the bigness of the Risen Jesus. All creation groans waiting for its redemption in the revealing of the glory of the Sons of God–not the adoption, but the revealing; yes the adoption–the redemption of our bodies–is ahead of us, but the glory is now; it is the mystery–Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1) We’ve been desensitized.

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. -Romans 8:18-25

And you see, I grew up with a faith taught me that said that Yhwh was only present in those who made a conscious decision to follow Christ, and that additionally Christ himself would only benefit those who lived a faultless life before the scrutiny of his eventual judgement, the atonement for sins remaining incomplete till the end of His righteous judgement–the scrutinisation of those worthy of salvation by merit. And you might laugh but the organized Christianities I have seen elsewhere are all underlied by similar mythology. “You must do this to be saved! You must be this kind of person to enter eternal life!” And for a first-century world born under the curse of a recently deprecated Law, a firm and definite transition had to be realized and cemented in memory, and this is why there is so much instruction written in the Bible to people ‘born in sin’. But post-cross? You were born free.

And you were born into Jesus, the Last Adam. You were born in his freedom, not into the first Adam’s bondage. Ishmael was born into slavery, but Isaac the child of promise was born in freedom, and he was the promise of the Promise, the Son risen in freedom with all humanity in tow with no ‘if’ or ‘but’, not up to you or me or any one but Him, the Preeminent Christ. So what then are the requirements?

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by 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.

21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him,23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven …  -Colossians 1:15-23

Believe it.

Believe Him. 

Believe He did it, and believe it is true.

And now, I am re-sensitizing. I’m seeing slivers of the glory in everything around me – it brings me such immeasurable joy to know the all-encompassing bigness of Jesus. And it gives me such peace to know that I have always been secure in Him; it gives me such peace to know that all humanity is secure in Him. And it gives me sorrow amidst great expectation because every single human walking the face of the earth has Yhwh God knitted into the fabric of their being literally and they have been born in freedom but… they are desensitized. And Christianity gives me the most sorrow–especially the brand I came from–because Christianity professes sensitivity. It professes knowledge of the Gospel. But so great a crowd yet live in bondage to the un-realities of religion which are so easily debunked by the Biblical record, because they are desensitized; how could it be true?

Do you want to be free? You already are.

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be[i]against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.[j] 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
    we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

 

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

-Romans 8:31-39

You Don’t Need More Faith

Faith. It is a deep part of my journey that I haven’t shared much about, but that has really been just below the surface all along. You see my journey began with asking the questions, “How can love be greater than faith?” and, “How can a self-professed Bible-living religion speak more emphatically about faith than love?”

And when I took the plunge into grace there were three camps; the first of course cried hysterically from behind me that I could not possibly leave the safety of the foundations upon which I had been raised and not end up in hell. The second informed me that my grace was good and all, but the church still expects you to strive toward perfection. And the third said come as you are–as long as you utilize your faith to accomplish the perfection we expect.

I chose what was seemingly the lesser of the three evils, because the idea that we must believe to receive is a classic in the church. But my dilemma has always been this: I don’t have nearly enough faith for salvation, let alone what I want to receive beyond that. I don’t have enough faith to live right or to entrust my righteousness to; I don’t have enough faith to pray with power; I don’t have even enough faith to speak in a group of people. The Bible states that we are made righteous by faith, but my faith falls short every time.

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

Galatians 2:20 KJV

I’ve read this verse before – I’ve read all of Galatians clear through many times. But the King James makes a seemingly minor difference in wording that totally changes the meaning of this verse – ‘by the faith of the Son of God’ 

Can someone say ‘Boom.

Now there is faith in Jesus and there is faith of Jesus:

But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!”

Romans 10:8‭-‬15 NKJV

Which is as much as to say, you can’t really make a meaningful agreement with something or someone you don’t believe–or, have faith–in.

And suddenly Jesus’ statement next to a withered fig tree about mustard-seed-sized faith begins to make sense–‘if you just have faith the size of a mustard seed you can say to that mountain, go throw yourself in the sea’. Because you’ll have to believe the truth–and if there is one thing Father will not do it is to make you believe the truth–but the only truth you need your own faith to believe….is that the rest is on His faith–He’s got this one.

Let’s go back to the context of Galatians (and as always, please – read the chapter. Read the book. Devour the context)

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.  But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid.  For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.  For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.  I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.  I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.

Galatians 2:16‭-‬21 KJV

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about my life in my physical body. I haven’t really put it to myself that directly until now–I’d always just let there be a vagueness there and I know I’ve been pondering things that directly relate to me, me being someone in this world who lives in a physical body. But I’ve always struggled with the tension of faith, and good works, and sin, and rest… And that might be a surprise for some people because in the beginning of all this I was all about the grace and the rest and the not having to do anything anymore. But the reality has always been this tension because my heart says ‘Yes, I rest in the finished work of Jesus,’ but my mind goes, ‘But what about…’

Because I still live in a physical body and I’m learning more and more that this body is exterior to who I am but it is so flawed and I am still so in it, and what do you do when your spirit wants to live one reality but your body wants to live another? Do you just keep repenting and asking forgiveness every day for the things your body does like the church has taught for time immemorial?

And if I’m honest I can say I know I don’t have enough faith for the trouble my body gets me into in this world.

And I know Father doesn’t expect me to keep repenting–as if I had turned away in the first place. And that’s the thing about a person being made holy and righteous and perfect because that happened 2000-some-odd years ago but if we don’t see exactly what we think is good and right and perfect in a person we deem them unsaved, unrepentant, sinners destined for the wrath of God (and well-deserving of punishment)–or perhaps more often we say they are living a licentious life based on ‘greasy grace’. Yeah, it’s dawning on me now where that concept comes from.

And Church I’ve had a lot to say to you lately and I want you to know that I’m saying this as much into my own heart as to yours, but repenting and ‘having more faith‘ are not the answers to the people you are disqualifying. The solution to greasy grace is not a realization that ‘oh yeah, you actually do have to do something, and actually it’s all the same stuff as before but now Jesus’ power will help you do it,’ no Church… The solution is living dead to your body.

Because listen, go back and look at Galatians 2 again: the law doesn’t justify anybody, and sorry but a new-covenant-esque take on the law is still not going to justify. Anybody. Ten commandments? Not a chance, and that’s an easy enough pill to swallow maybe, but repentance and faith-works? No. You can’t prime the Presence-pumpBut what then justifies? Your faith in what Jesus did for you? No. Jesusfaith in what Jesus did for you.

Because the real issue here Church, is not about stopping people from living sinful, worldly, licentious lives. It isn’t about giving them the twenty steps to right living. If the only solution you can give them is that they need to work harder and have more faith–faith harder–you’ve missed the gospel. And you’ve missed the meaning of the death of Jesus, because that is the moment where humanity was spiritually circumcised, cut away from our sin-riddled bodies for the rest of eternity.

And I finally totally get this whole concept of a death being required before a covenant can come to an end; I always thought the law was supposed to die with Jesus, but it was we who died with Jesus. Now if we resurrect our old selves, Mr. Law is still alive–guess what; you’re back together under that old covenant, a slave to sin and death, rebuilding what died with Jesus on the cross. But if we are alive by the life and faith of Jesus? 

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I liveyet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

…The life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God…

Do you want to know, Church, why you are experiencing so little victory over sin in your members? Because you’ve been teaching them that the life they life in the flesh they live by their own faith. It is all up to them and if they aren’t experiencing victory and favor it must be because they aren’t believing hard enough, or maybe it is because they have believed in ‘greasy grace’.  I’ll tell you right now Church, you’ve hurt and confused a lot of people because their faith was not strong enough for you.

You don’t need more faith. You don’t. You don’t need more faith. But I know, religion says ‘Be careful of greasy grace, some of this has got to be on you,’ but it doesn’t because it’s already on Jesus.

A weight lifts off my shoulders when I realize that it isn’t up to me believing hard enough anymore.

The thing that flung me into all of this was this story that I’ve never had an easy time understanding. It’s the story of a demon-possessed boy who met Jesus:

And when He came to the disciples, He saw a great multitude around them, and scribes disputing with them. Immediately, when they saw Him, all the people were greatly amazed, and running to Him, greeted Him. And He asked the scribes, “What are you discussing with them?”

Then one of the crowd answered and said, “Teacher, I brought You my son, who has a mute spirit. And wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid. So I spoke to Your disciples, that they should cast it out, but they could not.”

He answered him and said, “O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him to Me.”  Then they brought him to Him. And when he saw Him, immediately the spirit convulsed him, and he fell on the ground and wallowed, foaming at the mouth.

So He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?”

And he said, “From childhood. And often he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”

Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.”

Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

When Jesus saw that the people came running together, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it: “Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and enter him no more!”  Then the  spirit cried out, convulsed him greatly, and came out of him. And he became as one dead, so that many said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.

Mark 9:14‭-‬27 NKJV

Mark is the only author who records the depth of Jesus’ discord with the father of the boy. And notice something; Jesus saw a a faithless people, but all he expected from that boy’s father was belief. But belief in what? Because Jesus didn’t even say ‘Believe that all things are possible,’ no, he said ‘Just believe. All things are possible to people who believe.’ And the father cries out ‘Lord I believe; help my unbelief.’

And I recall several occasions that I prayed and I said “God I know it’s your desire to heal so bring healing now!” And I saw broken bodies mended. But more often I think of all the times I said to myself “No… it won’t work this time, I can’t believe enough for that,”

But Jesus has faith. And he knows that his faith is enough for an entire generation–an entire human race–if they will just let His faith do the acting for just a moment. Help my unbelief in Your belief.

I hate the term ‘greasy grace’. I really do with a passion. I hate that Father’s character has had such a demeaning caricature drawn of it. And I hate the abuse that church leaders have been responsible for in disqualifying people because of so-called greasy grace or licentiousness. And I’m not saying licentiousness isn’t a thing somewhere, but when I hear ‘greasy grace’ being tossed around I see people being bombarded by insecure Christians who seem so afraid that Father’s goodness is not enough. I see leaders requiring more than a simple recognition that Jesus died on the cross and spiritually circumcised our old natures making every person perfect in the sight of God. I see churches afraid of losing their monopoly on self-faith-based goodness and the control they hold over their members by it, and I begin to understand the sort of people Jesus must have been looking toward when he declared, ‘o faithless generation…’

You don’t need more faith; Jesus has enough.

The Christian (A)Gender

I’m about to broach a delicate subject. Gender. I don’t say homosexuality, or even LGBTQ+, because while I am going to talk about those, what I have to say is much broader than those labels.

​For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 3:26‭-‬28 NKJV

I’ve never been overly vocal on the gender/sexuality debate, as you might have noticed if you’ve been following the blog for a while. I’ve at times been tempted to chime in, the promise of a spike in page views entering my mind (just to be honest!). I have occasionally written on the matter but I have never taken any sides and to be constructively critical it breaks my heart to see the Christian response on the sexuality issue, and that is the number one factor in my hitherto silence. Because if I’m going to say anything, I definitely do not want my heart to be misrepresented by the discompassion of religion.

It also breaks my heart to see young, open-minded open-hearted Christians embracing the world’s sexuality agenda–not because they do not think like I do but because they seem to understand so little Father’s better–that the life of Jesus runs deeper than the physical body and its nuances in this world, and that the restoration of all things means all things made new. Following Jesus does not mean the death of individuality and self-expression.

I’ve never been comfortable with the Biblical proofs (or lack thereof) against homosexuality–particularly in the new testament. I’ve heard enough proofs and counter-proofs to know that honestly, the only thing that stands up on its own two feet is that in the beginning YHWH created man male and female, and he made woman specifically for man.

But I’ve picked a side: I choose love.

I don’t mean that like you think.

Some time back I read an article and I wasn’t too sure at the time what I thought but I have to admit, the writer had a valid point. It was about Galatians 3:28 (above).

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

I am amazed at how easily anyone would gloss over a third of this verse. No more Jew vs Greek? Fine. Undefining slavery? Sure. But nondescript sexuality? Perposterous.

But look at it. In Christ, you no longer have a national identity, you no longer have an identity of slave or free (which was much more relevant in Paul’s day, I might add)and according to the next statement the same is true of sexuality; there is no male–there is no female.

Think about that.

And now tell me, what bearing does that have on the sexuality issue? I can tell you right now the grey areas seem a lot less important to me because Jesus is not concerned about the gender of your body. 

I’ll say that again: Jesus is not concerned about the gender of your body. The new covenant life concerns your life in his body, not your own. There are a few other passages I’ve been studying lately that talk about dieing to your body because your physical body is not in alignment with the reality of the life of Jesus–your body is still in alignment with a marred world because that’s where it lives. 

That means it doesn’t matter if you’re a certain way from birth or because something happened in your upbringing to make you that way; it doesn’t matter–dare I say it–whether you are a man in a woman’s body or a woman in a man’s body–or a man in a man’s body or a woman in a woman’s body: it is all external to who you are in Christ, and what your body is now may not be what it is when it is remade in the renewal of all things.

And that means, your sexuality–and all forms of so-called ‘sinful tendency’, really–is as much a non-issue as injury and disease because it is not the fullness of Christ’s reality, and it may never be until the renewal of all things–but your spirit is new already, and that is why you deserve to hear the good news free of any Christian’s condemnation: you are already perfect! (Hebrews 10:14) 

And while we’re on the subject of non-issue, what about the legalization of gay marriage? But here’s the thing guys; (and it doesn’t make sense to me that Christians are getting so mad about this) governments can amend their definitions of marriage, but the government’s marriage contract and Father’s marriage covenant are two totally different things and the government has no input on the covenant Father designed. It shouldn’t surprise any Christian if the world gets…worldlier.

So to the church I say, be gracious; choose love. Because it’s true when they say love has no gender – they just don’t realize that Father is love, pure and ungendered.

And listen church, a father had two sons. He went to the first and he said “Son, I want you to work in the vineyards today,” the son said “Naw Pops,” but later he regretted saying no, and he went. And the father went to his second son and he said, “Son I want you to work in the vineyards today,” and the second son said “Yes absolutely! I’ll go right away Sir,” but he didn’t go. Sound familiar? Jesus (Matthew 21:28-32) was describing the social outcasts of his day–the tax collectors and the prostitutes–by the character of the first son because they may not have seemed the part, but they had hearts open and vulnerable to Father, and they were the ones who did what he desired.

But particular people come to mind who perhaps are rejoicing at my apparent coming around–it’s not like that. I can’t support the LGBTQ+ agenda because it’s not Father’s agenda, it’s the world’s and it is not the ‘better’ that Father has destined his children for. But what I can do is love as unconditionally as Jesus loves me, because I am in Him, and in Him gender doesn’t matter. I do not expect you to change, for me or for anyone else. What I do expect is that when you know Jesus, you will be changed, and I can promise you this; the ‘you’ deep inside you will be freed and come alive like no amount of self-expression could ever accomplish. But do not require you to change for me, and I never will.

And don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying sexuality–or even gender–doesn’t matter. Father has a white stone for you with a name written on it that only he knows and your identity and your sexuality as an integral part of your identity are secure in that stone and in the heart of Father. And the gracious heart of Father says, “It’s okay if you’re confused right now; we’ll walk this out together, and at the end I’ll restore your identity, and I’ll recreate your body in perfect alignment with who you really are, completely free from the affects of a twisted world, and I’ll place a white stone in your hand and I’ll whisper in your ear, ‘This is who you were created to be my child!’ And I will set you free to Be and to create with Me the way I always intended!”

But mostly, Church, my heart aches for you. You’ve made this into such a Big Deal. You’ve protested, you’ve boycotted, you’ve refused to make wedding cakes. You’ve overreacted. You’re painting scarlet letters over sawdust in the eyes of Father’s precious children and this must not go on. It doesn’t matter how people identify their physical gender any more than it matters whether a person is physically or mentally disabled, it really doesn’t. It doesn’t matter, because Father created their spirit, and he created it true, and he made it holy and righteous and perfect through the death of his son Jesus on the cross and you, Church, have no right to nullify the death of Jesus for such as these. ‘Properly-assumed’ gender is not a condition for grace, or salvation–or righteousness–or holiness. If you understand the gospel you know this already. What matters now, is love. Because love wins; love has won for you, and love has won for the ‘them’s, too.