In Defense of the Streams

There used to be a time when I accepted things unquestioningly; the Bible (and Ellen White) say it? It must be true. Simple days. I remember being taught that there was a gap in Orion’s Sword that looked upon heaven; surely even 15 years ago astronomy had already superceded that ‘cloudy gap’ observed a century before by advancements in telescopics, but by golly Joseph Bates and Ellen White said it, it must be so.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about right now, it’s okay. What it comes down to is this: I’ve grown up. I’ve studied conclusions I was taught–and some I wasn’t–and I’ve made my own. I’ve gone from an unquestioning tween with a zealousy to make God so proud He couldn’t possibly overlook me (and perhaps this says something also of my childhood), to a fiery teen with a burning desire to find in a dead religion the source of the glimpses of Spirit I’d seen naturally playing in people not because of the particular sect they were in but because of the people they were. I got frustrated with that one when I went on to become a striving youth eager to put that Spirit back into the religion, not realizing that Spirit doesn’t live in walls made by human hands or precepts. And slowly I became this: a wandering soul. I let the religion, and the walk, slip away. I lost sense of the value of ancient books though I used to study them with a fervent curiosity.

The first time I said, “I’m not a Christian any more,” it felt a little extreme. But the truth is, I don’t think I am–certainly not by the standards of many mainstream Christians. It seemed naked at first, walking around without a label. I spent some time looking around to see if I could pick up a new one somewhere else–Buddhism, anyone? If I were forced to frame myself I would say I am currently a Christ-Taoist–and I would point out that I don’t mean ‘Christ’ as in “Jesus the–“. But I have exhausted my interest in frameworks.

What I wish I could make clear to every Christian I know who is currently praying for either the eventual salvation or swift destruction of such outsiders as myself ‘tossed on the waves of reason,’ as it were, are the simple philosophies of Divinity. Philosophies such as God’s love for man and the utter impossibility of his doing anything less than the utmost (and we’re talking omnipotent here, guys) to bring every single molecule of his creation back to himself. Many would call it heresy to suppose that Christ already accomplished this – I believe It Is Finished.

And getting back to that “not ‘Jesus the–‘” business for a moment, I believe in universal Christ: Christ with all, in all, through all, and all with, in and through Christ. A simple Christian philosophy–but also a simple Buddhist philosophy, and Taoist philosophy, and I believe, a Hindu philosophy–and many others–and in fact more universally shared than Christians like to admit, and why? Because Christians are the only ones who call this ‘Christ’, and so believe they have and hold the One True Thing when the One True Thing was meant for All. Christians. Jews. Muslims. Buddhists. Hindu. Taoists, even. Paul quoted the Greeks when he spoke of Universal Christ saying, ‘in him we live and move and have our being,’ and I’d like to think that Paul wasn’t just appropriating the culture to his own devices but actually recognizing the validity of someone else’s experience of the One True Thing by a Different Name. Read that Again. There is another name for Everything.

There is a principle which comes from Confusionism called wu wei – it literally means inexertion–or inaction. Water follows the principle of wu wei: it flows ever-downward, it flows around things, following the course of least resistance, yielding to whatever stands in its way. And it always will return to the bottom, settling completely. It does this effortlessly, and yet water carved the Grand Canyon. The thing about streams is that they all take different routes, but they all have the same destination: below everything – the foundations of life itself. The water of life was not a meaningless analogy. You yourself are, primarily water, and your own energy responds to the world around you primarily as–you guessed it: water. Wu wei. We’re all destined for the same place. Another name for Everything.

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.

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.

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.

When I Think of You…

I think of shame. And embarrassment.

I think of the hurdles of transitioning from an extremely intimidated introvert into a socially semi-functional…still intimidated…introvert.

I think of seeing you for the first time and wishing you would be my friend but knowing the social norms of our little clique wouldn’t allow for that–and the overarching reality that I was far too shy to ever dream of approaching you. I think of seeing you blossoming into one of the most beautiful people I had ever before seen or known the name of. And I think of our first timid words.

And I think that I was such a fool. I was such a fool not to have made the most–or more than I did–of that time. I think of long drawn-out silences that maybe you understood but probably you didn’t because in written word they didn’t exist.

I think of love, because I did love you–what you would let me see of you–and ‘love’ had only recently become to me something that makes your heart pound so strongly it seems as though the whole world can hear it. Maybe they could hear it, and looked on in silence as I blundered around you. I was so very clumsy then–physically, emotionally–

I think of hate. Because I hate that a decade later there is still a construction zone where my heart collided with yours, and most of that decade I have spent regretting the day I met you because you brought out the bumbling idiot in me. I hate the fact that even though now I understand exactly what happened back then, I’ve already played too many of my cards trying to explain to you what I did wrong, and you will never hear this, and I don’t want you to because if you did you would disregard it the same way you did every other time I tried to find a little peace of mind. I’m angry.

I’m angry because you used me. I don’t know how much of what you did was done consciously, or when it became conscious for you, but the entire time I was blaming myself for everything that went wrong, too innocent and too gullible to see that I was all in it for you, and you were all in it for you, so no one was actually in it for me and I got burned. But I’m most angry because even though I know what happened wasn’t completely my fault and that it was a learning curve neither of us had experienced before, I still to this day beat myself up for destroying the friendship I was so lucky to have.

But when I think of you…

I think forgiveness. Because forgiveness was always something I asked–sometimes begged–of you. I was so sure if I had your forgiveness I would have peace of mind–but lo and behold here I am still ranting about it. And I never realized until recently that maybe I was not the only one who needed forgiveness, and maybe you were not the one to give any.

I have no blame for you–I never have. But I have a bitterness that none of my words have ever been able to express. It’s only a shame this came so late, but I forgive you. And I forgive me. I forgive you for being an earthborn human raised with a comsciousness for a broken world and imperfect relationships. I forgive myself for being a late bloomer and for the time you spent expecting me to be a fully opened blossom when all I had to offer were the smallest buds. I forgive myself my awkward introvertedness, I forgive myself my passivity. And I forgive myself for being unable all these years to lay this one burden at the wayside and truly live beyond its regret.

So there you have it. I rarely think of you anymore, but it is all there and every now and then I revisit that painful spot in my heart and rebruise the edges. But I won’t do that anymore, for both of us.

When I think of you, I think of grace. I see that there was so much room for it between us and I wish I had understood it and been able to relate more graciously with you then. I wish you knew what I know now. Maybe you do, probably you don’t–but maybe you do. You could be free.

Bridging the Generational Gap

I have a bit of a confession to make. I identify as trans.

Trans-generation, that is.

I have another confession to make; I like click-bait. I don’t like being targeted by it, but I love using it. But I digress–now that you’re here.

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I’ll tell you what I mean.

I’ve identified as a Millenial for about as long as I’ve known anything about Millenials; I fit the attributes of a Millenial pretty well and for some time now it has been growing on me that Father put seeds for big dreams in the hearts of Millenials that will and are changing the heart of Christianity and culture, and I’m excited about that.

But the truth is that from the beginning there was always a disconnect that I couldn’t quite place–a something that leaves me feeling able to relate with Millenial longing, but from an edge-of-the-camp point of view.

I found a book a few weeks back (spoiler: it was actually a little disappointing) called Meet Generation Z by James Emery White, and I read the back and I said to myself, “That’s it; that is why my heart feels so divided here.” Generation Z, or the Founders, or iGeneration–to mention a few of the descriptors going around–is the generation following Generation Y–Millenials–and while it is still too young for the experts to really agree on exact dates yet, it includes people born from the mid-90s onward. And here was my dilemma: I’m right in the middle.

The Thing that was off is that I relate as much–maybe even more–to GenZ as I do Millenials, but I grew up with Millenials, and so I find myself in this unique position where I can dream with both.

It probably also helps that I was raised in a Christian home and have been challenged over the years to go deep and know what I believe and why, and experience it. That immediately sets a contrast to the growing nones of GenZ (those with no religious affiliation).

I actually started writing this post weeks ago, but it lay dormant till this morning when it dawned on me: these aren’t the first trans-generational inclinations I’ve had. Back in May 2012 I delivered a sermon based on a dream I had had back in January of 2009, here’s what I wrote about it in my journal:

May 26, 2012 – Friday 9:25 PM

So tomorrow is the big day! I’m preaching! Oh God speak through me, [be]cause my voice, my thoughts and ideas, they are totally not yours, yours are so much bigger, so much HIGHER, so much more amazing!

I’m super nervous.

I really really really hope you do something awesome tomorrow, God. That would be so cool dude! I’m really tired tonight though, I hope you don’t have anything to say to me at midnight again! Haha…

No… that’s not true… I love listening to your voice. Especially in the stillness, the quiet of the night.

I LOVE YOU, Daddy! Whatever happens tomorrow, it’s totally all yours. Completely all yours.

On with the show!

May 28, 2012 – Sunday 4:05 PM

So I missed [journaling] yesterday but I probably shouldn’t have because a lot happened. I’ll start at the beginning. So I had the sermon and that was awesome! I shared about my dream and my vision for generational unity and everybody responded SO well, it was amazing! Everybody came to the front when I gave the invitation and those that couldn’t stood; there was nobody sitting down in the end. And it was SO AWESOME! I’M SO EXCITED! The feedback afterward was so great too, L came into the anti-room right after and said thank-you and I gave him a hug, and OF COURSE D came and gave me a hug, C had lots to say (as usual) but that was cool because he has a real heart for this too. J came and thanked me too and I gave him a hug. It was awesome! So anyway… it turned out way way WAY better than I could’ve hoped… cause it was in God’s hands, not mine.

(I’m so glad I used to be a prolific journal-er)

I’d originally recorded the dream I’d had in a notebook sometime around the time I’d had it, but that notebook got burnt, SO, thankfully I diagrammed it in my dream journal a couple years later pre-burn so that I can still be sure of the details. Here’s what happened:

It all centered around this bridge, and I’ve had many, many dreams both previously and since, about crossing this bridge, but I have never to my memory had any but one dream where the bridge wasn’t swaying or falling apart or just a collection of boards and cables, I’ve never once any other time had a dream where crossing this bridge–usually on foot–wasn’t a tremendously terrifying or menacing feat.

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But in my dream I was biking toward the bridge, and I had just about this exact view as I was riding down the highway toward it, but everything was vivid green, like almost unnaturally new-growth green, the whole canyon. It looked a lot like the picture, but somehow more alive, more young–everything had this hue about it that just echoed spring.

As I was rounding the corner that leads up to the bridge I saw this old white-haired man who I was catching up to. He was walking ahead of me on the side of the road, and he had on these green coveralls, a darker, deeper shade than the scenery was. As I caught up to him we were just coming to the bridge, and for a moment it was like neither of us could decide which side we each wanted to be on; after several swaps I ended up starting across on the left, and he on the right. I had gotten off my bike to push it across, and I started to run to get across ahead of this old man, but the man kept up without difficulty.

What I took out of this dream, and what I spoke about in 2012 is that I had a longing to see generations walking together. How fitting, then, that I identify so well with two different generations directly, but also have been able to identify with a passion for Father I’ve seen in many of older generations, as well. We cannot compete, we must walk together.

And so I’m beginning to see part of my heart again – a part that is longing not only to see the next generation transformed by the reality of the gospel, but to see my generation model that reality and mentor that generation. To see the young embrace and learn from the old. And certainly, generations pass on, but there is a season for walking with before seasons of merely walking in the footsteps of.

But there is also a challenge for the older generations in this, too. Because Father never changes, but Christianity is, and there is a change coming with Millenials and the Founders that is going to turn church and religion on its head–in a good way. It is a returning to the roots, a re-discovering of the reality of the gospel and a challenging of the traditional corporate church and traditional theology. A baptism of love is releasing from transformed hearts who won’t merely pray for transformation and revival but be transformation and revival because we are transformation and revival already since Christ transformed and revived each of us on the cross. It is a revolution of Truth and Grace in love and it threatens the very roots of church culture tradition, but hearts are coming alive like seldom before.

And so to the generations as we’re entering this church-culture shift I give the same invitation I did five years ago: won’t you join me?

I’m Already Perfect

then He said, “Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God.”

I ran across something the other day that totally revitalized my confidence in the journey I’ve been on and an endeavor I’ve recently set out on. It was this little passage in the book of Hebrews:

12 But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, 13 from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. 14 For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.

                                                                                                –Hebrews 10:12-14 [NKJV]

Why does that resound so deeply in me? Because it is the one thing that gives.

For several weeks now I’ve been writing a lot–albeit not anything for this blog. I’ve undertaken the task of doing some research into the early history of the Millerite movement and Adventist church pioneers, and putting together a fairly brief (10000-word-and-counting) paper on my findings, and let me tell you…it’s been tough slugging. Although I’ve wanted to undertake something like this for several years, going back to the dispute has raised such a flounder on my mind–not that I don’t still believe in my decisions, but that the things I’ve been researching are so fog-inducing. Indeed, it is probably the thing I’ve been most enthusiastic about working on over the last few weeks, but at the same time it is tiresome work because Father has been so misunderstood and misrepresented.

In particular, I’ve been studying a doctrine called Investigative Judgment which tends to take the focal point in the early history of the Adventist movement’s birth out of Millerism. (it’s alright if you don’t know what any of this actually is, by the way) To put it in brief, investigative judgment takes every assurance of salvation away from believers and replaces it with an assurance of judgment, the nature of which calls up every secret word, thought and deed you ever did–or will do–and measures your fitness for salvation based upon these deeds. It is a doctrine which would have Christ’s death on the cross powerless, instead pointing you toward a future atoning for sin only after you have been found deserving under the most detailed scrutiny of all your conscious and unconscious action and thought.

Rough, right?

But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.

It’s not that I didn’t already know that–I’ve read this passage before, probably multiple times over. But the reality just crashed over me like a tsunami, totally obliterating the fog and the obstructions; I’m perfect. I was made completely perfect forever the moment Christ made that offering. How could that possibly be based on anything I could ever do? The thing about sanctification then, is that it does not bring us up to a future perfection; sanctification brings us up to experience the already-present-reality that we are perfect already. Forever.

“Well,” I’m sure you say, “Where does that leave me? I KNOW I’m not perfect; this just can’t be true.”

Ditto. Me too. But you are perfect. You are perfect. YOU! Perfect! That is the gospel! That is the good news! To the first believers the gospel was this: ‘Sin has so depraved you that you killed Jesus–the very messiah you’ve been looking for–but by his offering he made you perfect anyways, and now he reigns Eternal Risen King.’ (or something along that line – find it in the book of Acts) But now the gospel is ‘You are no longer born inherently evil in spite of the depravity sin once worked on the human race because Christ redeemed and perfected you!’ It is finished! There is no more to do! You are perfect! You are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus! The only thing left to do to experience this reality is to start believing the reality of Christ-in-you the hope of glory! The eternal mystery has been completed and revealed in the sacrifice of Jesus to make you perfect. Eternal not because we will never know what it is, but eternal because your perfection is for forever.

I don’t mind telling you, it is so refreshing to remember that. And to learn that. Because to be honest, I did learn something when I read those verses again. I’ve spent my life glossing over the reality of the gospel. I’ve spent my life believing in the ‘one day,’ a distant future hope in becoming complete and perfect in who I was made to be. Even as I’ve begun to understand grace and love, I know now I’ve never believed I could be already perfect. I always believed there was still some inherent evil lurking in the roots of me, some mystical flesh character that I must struggle and fight against to maintain and further my growing perfection. And sure, ‘the flesh’ whatever that actually is exactly, it’s a thing. Something in my physical body that urges me to do things that I know I–the true me–don’t really want to do.

But the reality is I’ve already been perfected. Forever. You’ve already been perfected forever. You can take that ‘flesh’ monster and you can make that an external thing to you because you are now perfect in Jesus; there is no sin problem between me and Father–between you and Father. Sanctification is just the journey we take to fully realize that reality in our bodies, to the ultimate sanctification of physically new bodies. Now that is good news. Are you ready to believe it with me?