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Thursday, December 13, 2018

MEET YOUR MAKER (TOOLS TO SHIFT PERSPECTIVE)


I am a very different person than I was four years ago and that is not the result 
of a magic one week cleanse or a finding the right man or a gypsy curse.
I have done some particular behaviors that have made it possible for me 
over time to incrementally become a different person.
In full disclosure...my discovery of these items was often accidental.
I'm creating a series called #shiftingperspective because
it's possible that one other person needs some tips or tools for how to change.
It's is an unscientific compilation of the tools, 
attitudes or approaches that have supported my journey
 to becoming whole-hearted, awake, and not controlled by my trauma.


An important step for me shifting my perspective was
committing myself to God.
No...I don't mean taking a vow of celibacy or joining a cult.
I mean connecting to my Maker with intention by
creating a practice that moves through my daily life.
I mean picking a path to reach God that gives me framework and accountability.
I stopped avoiding my own belief and ideas about God
and decided to accept God as an integral and necessary 
part of my existence.

For the first four decades of my life, I was an arrogant jackass in my relationship to God.  
To anyone who struggles with faith, who longs for a connection with the Divine
 and can't quite get there-I'm sorry.  
I hear your pain and struggle and I acknowledge that my next few paragraphs
 might make you feel rage at my wasteful and irreverent attitude.  
To those of you who are committed atheists or anti-religion-I hear you too.  
I am not trying to convert anyone to a religion.  
Just hear me out and let it percolate for a while.
I think there's something in here that will shift even the most 
self-destructive or apathetic soul.




Let's talk about God...the Divine...the Universe....Love with a capital L.
I have always had a connection with God that was personal and real. 
God has been with me since I was little and I have always been able to 
find that golden thread that connects me to the WHOLE when I go looking for it.
I have talked to God throughout my life-
usually asking for guidance once I was well and truly lost.
God answers me on the reg-
sometimes in clear, direct ways and sometimes in infuriating riddle.
My personal connection with God requires very little suspended belief or blind faith.
I don't understand God per se...but I experience and feel God 
moving and working in the world.
God is as real to me as the wind or cellular division or fermentation.

If I believe that God is real and I experience God often, you would think that 
I would develop intentional ways to connect with that mystery as often as possible.
I hate to disappoint you with my humanity 
but this very ease enabled me to dismiss a spiritual practice 
as unimportant for a long time.
I went through my first four decades or so taking this connection for granted-
treating this gift as if it were not precious or important to my overall well-being.
I reached for God when I needed a favor, I high-fived God when something
amazing happened, I said some nice things to God on holidays, 
and I tried really hard not to work on it too much.
This connection was organic and fundamental-but also
suspiciously free from angst, pain or expectation.
Because of my unresolved trauma and family of origin
I preferred to focus my energy on more challenging things-
like people-pleasing, chasing someone else's dreams, or pretending everything was FINE.
It's hard work hustling to meet the challenges that the world values
and I was a winner dammit!  

God often told me that I was enough, that I could choose differently,
that I was made for more, that there was another path.
If I'm being truly honest....I felt this connection was kind of annoying.
God was so consistently present and frankly...
saying something that I was uninterested in hearing.
I learned to ignore God so I could do what I wanted.
Yeah yeah....I said.  
I'm gonna try that, just as soon as I convince this person to love me
 or I become financially set for life, or get through this hard parenting milestone.
Just over that mountain-that's where I'll meet You, 
spend some time in Your presence.
But my priority for this connection just kept receding into the distance, 
dropping lower on the life goal list.
Be still God said.
Hold my beer I responded.

So what changed?
I failed.
All my worldly targets and achievements didn't keep me safe.
My people pleasing and focusing on the worldly ideas of success
didn't exempt me from pain, shame and humiliation.
This fail was so big and so deep that I couldn't dust myself off 
and pretend like it was no big deal.
I was down for the count for months and I wasn't sure I was getting back up.
There were sleepless nights within this time where I felt dead-
stunned into stillness by the blows to my soul.
I wanted to die; I felt dead in many ways.
I wanted to leave-this life, my job, my marriage.
Any relationship that I had previously participated within
felt barren, tasteless, and colorless.
I reached out to God-connecting to that source that I couldn't make time for before.
I spent much of that dark time wrapped in God-
using God for strength when I couldn't eat, couldn't breathe, 
couldn't climb into a chair much less move mountains.
God sustained me in a way that I didn't know was possible-
and showed me something precious I had been dismissing because
 it was so available to me.
I was reaching out to God consistently for a protracted amount of time.
I showed up, I listened to what God said-
even when it sounded waaaay harder than just leaving, 
even when it seemed like lunatic guidance,
when it made me angry and was exactly the opposite of what the world 
told me to do.
Somewhere in this darkness...I committed to a path
that included God and it made a major difference in my healing.
I kept coming back, kept doing my part, kept reaching for the connection, 
and I accidentally managed to heal parts of myself that were stuck.
My perspective about many things changed because I gave
over myself to a higher power.



Now I can feel you bunching up.
Perhaps everything I'm saying just reinforces that I'm bonkers to you
but I'm going to keep pushing for a minute.
Skepticism and resistance makes a lot of sense to me-
more sense than any on the spot conversion ever has in my opinion.
I am not telling you to be a certain religion.
I'm not actually telling you that religion is the answer to anything.
Religion can get in the way of personal growth and development
because it often narrows the field in 
ways that are based in human failings, fear or power.
Religions are support paths or frameworks-ways that other humans
have managed to connect to God.
They persist because they work-like 12 step programs or weigh watchers.
I am not knocking them but I am also not saying you need them
or promoting one over the other.
I'm not talking about theology or consequences-
whether there is a heaven or a hell,
who gets to be in or who gets to be out.
Everyone belongs to God, in God, with God.


Why do I think this helps?
There are a couple of angles I could take up about this.
My understanding of my own nature is that I'm a physical body,
with emotions and logic as primary influences of my behavior.
I'm an entity comprised of body, mind and spirit.
Fueling my spirit is just as important as physical health
and requires a commitment from me to support that spirit.
It's not likely that I can shift my perspective intentionally
if I'm not healthy in all three areas.
Connecting with God helps my spirit be healthy.

Don't like that angle?
How about this one...whatever you believe, 
I am assuming that you don't believe that you personally
 were the Force behind the universe creation, 
behind the stars and planets and those little baby feet that are so perfectly scrumptious.
Something ELSE did that and I'm pretty sure you don't understand 
what that something ELSE is.
It's a mystery.
Accepting that you don't know everything is important.
Trying to connect to that mystery more often-
letting go of your ego, listening to the seashell of the universe,
living into possibility-changes you.

What if you're angry at God?
First....you're not alone.
There are so many broken and damaged people-
every single one of us is pretty messed up.
If you've been hurt or neglected in the name of God,
don't you deserve redemption?
If you've been taught ideas about God that 
sound like middle school drama rules, wouldn't it be nice
to take that to the principal's office?
Second...God can handle your anger.
You are encouraged and allowed to feel all the feelings.
God is not a human-passive aggressive and bound by our rules.
Let me ask you this:
You ever have a fight with your best friend and stop speaking to her?
How long did you stop speaking to her?
Was it forever?
I stopped speaking to one of mine for a year in college.
And then one day I realized that the burden of my anger
was too heavy to bear-no matter what terrible thing she'd done-
and we went to dinner.
We had a hard time getting started, what she'd done wasn't undone,
and what I'd done in response wasn't either.
We'd both missed out though because I didn't know how to speak
my disappointment, rage and frustration.
We learned a lot in that experience-both the fighting and the forgiveness.
If two self-centered and dramatic college kids can wade into 
a conversation and come out better,
then certainly the Force that moves through the universe
can handle your rage.
Give it over and see  what happens when there's a space.
Be still, open up,
reach for something bigger than you little human.


There are infinite names for God.
You cannot ever fully know or contain God.
The task is impossible.
There is still value in the trying, in the journey, in the wrestle.
There are 6 billion paths to God-there is one for you too.
Whatever path you choose...the action of choosing, 
the practice or the commitment has a payoff that is unexpected.


This post feels really long-winded but I don't want to lose the important bit.
Here's what I'm saying in the most direct way possible:
Actively work to connect with God
and your perspective will shift.
It has too...your focus is different so your view will change too.


Tuesday, November 20, 2018

LEMON MERINGUE PIE (A LOVE OFFERING)



No mother is perfect, it's an impossible job.
It's possible to be a mother, give it everything you've got
and still have your children wish you were different.
My children are already amused and exasperated by their mom-
I don't imagine it will get better with time.
Grandmothering seems to be evaluated differently.
Grandmothering appears to be a skill that can be mastered
and allows for more latitude in terms of execution.
Both of my grandmothers,
Inez and Annie Ruth,
were truly outstanding in their field
when it came to grandmothering.
They were so different from each other-and yet....
their love was similar in that it didn't waiver
as they nurtured and cared for my little heart with tremendous soul.
Each of them gave me different gifts, intentionally
pouring love into me with their time and attention.
If I'm truthful, some of my more ridiculous and persistent 
character traits are owed in large part to their influence.
I would not have it any other way.
On this week of Thanksgiving,
I want to share some of the gifts they gave me-
including a recipe I use to help me remember
that while love is not a pie, pie can remind us of love.

L-R: Inez, 16 year old me, Annie Ruth

Inez was not a particularly good cook or housekeeper-
her home base talents were a zest for life and a willingness to drag some
 scraggly grandkids along while she did pretty much anything. 
She was a trail blazer-working outside of the home
in a male dominated field very successfully until retirement.
She moved back to NC and turned that prodigious energy on us-
the grandkids that lived next door, or with her, depending on how
lost our mother was in the moment. 
With Inez, we were always going-
to visit her colorful sisters or friends, 
to try out a new swimming pool, on a walk to find ice cream sandwiches,
 or taking a road trip to somewhere we'd never been.  
The zoo, the beach, the mountains, museums and the new Chinese restaurant.
She had a robust sense of possibility or a deep fear of boredom.
She was interested in whatever shenanigan interested us-
at least enough to encourage us to get back at it.  
She quoted poetry, did little jigs while she made us turkey sandwiches,
and apparently had a song snippet for just about every occasion.  
She encouraged reading, academic achievement,
debate (about politics or college basketball).

I don't have a lot of Inez recipes-she had more energy than skill. 
Her home was my place of retreat and safety-
where I was always welcome to have anything I wanted to eat.
There was usually a loaf of banana or zucchini bread,
or sandwiches or soup.
She just didn't make a lot of meals necessarily-
or at least none that were over the top tasty.
Her kitchen projects were more prolonged and 
with a longer focus in mind than one particular meal.
She loved to dry apples, pick blackberries or grapes or cherries, 
make jam or pickles or chow-chow.  
The only thing I can really think of that she made at holidays was something
 she called scrabble but her other friends called trash.  
It's basically chex mix mixed with nuts and covered in soy sauce
and spices, baked until it dried back out to a crunch. 
In November there would be mountains of it stacked in ziploc bags
 on her dining table, ready to take to church bazaars and give as favors.



Annie Ruth was a firecracker-almost wholly without filter.  
I say 'almost' because as she aged, her sons often wished for 
the halcyon days where she had apparently been holding back.  
I loved to spend time with her-there was no telling what she was going to say. 
When I called to see if she wanted to go to lunch, 
she would answer the phone, out of breath, and sound truly annoyed
 that someone had interrupted her.  
Call back 2 minutes from when you hung up with her, and the same routine. 
She hadn't gone anywhere and yet-she was out of breath and exhausted,
possibly dying slowly from a preventable but terminal disease.
Every time. 
Until she found out it was a grandchild that is.
Then her voice would brighten like a child on Christmas morning.
Oh HELLOOO DOLL BABY!
Yeah, let's go up to Huey's and get the buffett.
Then you can take me to get my medicine.
She was not politically correct, she had opinions 
about everything and they were some combination
of irreverent and concerned for the welfare of someone
she had no business being nosy about.
She inhabited a place fully without ever really
expressing a desire to go somewhere new
(although she did go to the beach and to Dollywood with my Papa).
She was not a city person, trusted no one, 
was convinced she was one step away from being robbed or 
assaulted by a stranger.
This should have probably been scary but instead it was hilarious.
There were no strangers in Mebane NC-at least not strangers to her.

She wielded a cast iron skillet like a holy grail of grease.  
Her biscuits and fried chicken set the bar high for how I will forever
 evaluate Southern American celebration food.
I have yet to taste any better-and most don't even come close.
Creamed corn, field peas, fried okra, cornbread, country ham,
red eye gravy, and sweet iced tea that had to be sipped in tea cups.
Even sliced tomatoes tasted better at Annie Ruth's. 
Annie Ruth had a sweet tooth which she believed in indulging.  
Every Sunday lunch had pies, cakes, and occasional jello concoctions.  
Banana pudding (the actual cooked kind), pineapple upside down cake, chocolate or lemon chess pie, coconut creme cake...
there were always at least 4 things to choose from in the back room
 on top of the cabinator (freezer). 
 One of her specialties was lemon meringue pie.
Her version was pale yellow, sweet enough to hurt your teeth,
and fell apart immediately when you cut into it.
This pie became a symbolic act of love from her to me
during my high school and college years.
Anytime I was going to be home (at my dad's)
she would make me a whole lemon pie.
A whole pie just for me-the extravagance of it is absurd.
 It was so rare for me to feel beloved or wanted in family 
spaces-grief is a real place, that can only be navigated in doses.
  I think she tried to overcome the bitter with the sweet-
and as love offerings go, this one could have resulted in
a wave of altar calls.

This is NOT Annie Ruth's recipe-hers involved a lot more stuff.  
She made the crust from scratch and the sheen I remember 
coming off of her pies would suggest there's a 
missing ingredient that cardiologists would not approve of
(not that cardiologist would approve of this one either).  
This recipe is slightly easier than hers but is pretty close to the flavor.
It is not healthy and there should be no further attempts to 
make it more healthy-this is not daily food meant to support your body.
This is soul food-meant to remind you of heaven and unconditional love.
Eating the whole thing is possible-
but not recommended. 
Find someone to share it.
Or give it to them outright.



Lemon Meringue Pie

Ingredients:
1 store bought graham cracker pie crust
3 egg yolks
1- 14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup of lemon juice
3 egg whites
6 tablespoons of sugar

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Mix yolks, condensed milk and lemon juice until smooth.  
Pour into pie crust.
In a clean bowl, mix egg whites and sugar.
Blend egg white mixture with a hand mixer 
until you think you might actually die standing there....
which is about the time stiff peaks will start to form.
When you can work with the meringue as if it's an 80's hair sculpture, 
place it on top of the lemon mixture.  
I like to make little peaks so they will brown but you can 
basically shape it almost any way you like.
Put in the oven for 15 minutes.
Cool on the counter and then refrigerate for 4 hours.





  

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

IF I WANT TO BE DIFFERENT THEN, I HAVE TO MAKE CHANGES NOW


I've talked before about the level of energy and production I have.
I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say I 'do' more than most.
When I want to do something, I generally get after it.
And yet....in spite of all of my hustling, there are some to-dos
that just never seem to get checked off.
Things I've told myself are important and are going to happen.  
Things that I don't want to let go of for some reason but I always 
move lower on the priority list because...
well, I haven't been 100% sure of the because. 
Why do I keep moving particular items from the top of the to-do list
to the middle, even though I agree in my bones
that they are important and need to be done sooner rather than later?
It's been one of those annoying but consistent mysteries 
that falls in the same category as single sock syndrome.

Here are some things that I have said are a priority and 
then repeatedly nudged to the lower middle of the to do list:
doing a pull-up
developing a daily intentional connection with God
scheduling hard wood floor replacement in my home
making eye contact-especially with people who are different than me
having a highly informed opinion when I vote
avoiding inflammatory foods-like ALL THE TIME, not just on Mondays
dusting (anything)
writing one of the 3 books I have outlined
lots of corporate paperwork for Bloomin


When I look at this list, it appears to be a mix of large, 
chewy things and small irritating minutiae.  
It's hard to find the invisible thread that runs through them all.
At first I thought it was laziness.
I know what to do if I'm feeling lazy.
I wake up my internal drill sergeant
and have her bully me over the top of the wall.
Except-that didn't work.
Trying to work on these items felt like carrying dead 
weight over that wall.
I couldn't lift one-much less carry it and myself.
Maybe they are too boring or uninteresting?
Not shiny enough?
Nope...that doesn't fit either.
How about too hard or complicated?
Maybe I'm intimidated by them?
Possibly but...that doesn't feel quite right either.
I'm not usually avoidant of complications-quite the opposite.
What is it about these tasks that makes them slippery?
I don't want any of them to come off the list
and yet, I can't seem to manage to move them over the line.
What is the difference between work that I say is a priority
and work that actually becomes a priority?
What connects these things that I have such a hard time
moving off of my list?


There's something about writing that very often unlocks doors 
within my brain that I haven't even realized were there.
I create a draft blog post and then let that topic percolate
 through my subconscious while I go on with life.
Every couple of weeks I check in on it, turn it over,
and then walk away again.
It's a kind of magic that works a lot
like composting or fermentation.
I can't see what's happening but eventually I will 
have an epiphany just because I set my mind to work on it.
I've been giving this topic side-eye for multiples of months-
letting this post age and breathe but making very little progress.

A few weeks ago, my daughter and I were talking about her ability to 
sustain long runs on the soccer field.
She's a fast, competitive little hummingbird who
has some serious natural talent for this sport.
Her innate abilities have been enough to keep her in the 
game until very recently.
Lately though, she runs out of juice by game end
and that's pretty frustrating to her.
She wants to be able to run as fast in game minute 40 that 
she can run in the first 10 minutes.
That is possible but it will take some investment
in the form of long runs a few other days of the week, 
solid nutrition, and probably some mental conditioning.
Her genetics and inclination will only take her so far.


I said this phrase to my daughter:
If you want to be different then, you have to make changes now.
This happens a lot-where my subconscious speaks to me
when I think I'm teaching someone else.
If I want to be different then, I need to be different now.
Well duh.
How obvious and easy does that feel?
Except, of course it isn't.

Back to my never completed mid-level items.
Each of the items that keeps getting bumped off of the top 
of the list has the ability to cause me a protracted amount of discomfort. 
I won't be able to rely on my natural abilities to get them done
without some planning and training to support those efforts.
Don't believe me that dusting would take a long protracted effort?
Well....here's a hot tip that I have recently realized:
  I've mislabeled a few items to keep
the list small and to pretend it's not that challenging.
Dusting is short hand for 'get my house right'
because it always leads to protracted cleaning and decluttering.
Which I like in theory but can derail an entire month of weekends.  
(See Insights from a Garage).   
This is exactly the same barrier to replacing our flooring.
Replacing our flooring will mean several weeks
of upheaval in the heart of our lives.

 Other items on this list will mean months or weeks of extended failure.  
None of the books that I've framed out are nearly as clear and 
direct as any of my blog posts.  
Some of the content in my books will require me to warn
my children before the rest of the world
understands exactly how screwed up I have been.
Writing a book will mean I intentionally spend weeks in the recesses
 of my mind, tugging on imperfections, remembering really 
uncomfortable situations and somehow turning that into work worth sharing.
Saying what needs to be said but using my own soul for the catalyst. 
Also, I've never written a book and I'm pretty sure my first drafts
(and third and fourth drafts) will be horrendous.
I will have to hang with that content for months until it becomes real. 

My point is, each of the items that keeps sliding
needs me to develop some habits to support my ability to 
be uncomfortable in my own life for a protracted period of time.
These items might not be hard for someone else
but they hit me in tender areas that aren't naturally resilient
enough for me to endure a protracted campaign.
If I want to move them off the list,
I'm going to need to do some training.
If I want to be different then, I have to make changes now.



Short term perseverance has been a towering strength of mine
but long term, consistent change has often eluded me.
Especially if we're talking about personal change.
My signature move is to provide an overwhelming amount of focus
and energy to hit a crazy goal, and then drop 
back into my old patterns as I search for a new wave to ride.
I would never describe myself as someone 
who avoids hard things.
But I would describe myself as someone who lacks structure
or consistency...someone who has a weaker
amount of self-discipline.
Anytime I've had consistent improvement or change
in long term self-discipline,
I've had an external structure to support that goal.
School, career, motherhood.
A reason outside myself to push through to the goal.
I haven't been able to move some of these personal
goals forward because no one outside of myself cares if I do them or not
AND they require me to develop new habits that need
to persist for longer than a few weeks.

If I want to be different then, I have to make changes now.
I'm starting to see that making small amounts of discomfort 
a daily habit is key to reaching many of my goals.
I am afraid of being uncomfortable, of failing, or doing it 'wrong'.
Not on things that matter to other people-
but on things that matter the most to ME.
This is uncomfortable but also, exactly who I want to become.
A person who stops shuffling her priorities in favor of 
her own immediate gratification.
Someone who doesn't need external validation
or an award to move her own agenda forward.
Someone who respects herself, nurtures herself, and doesn't
 regret her avoidance when she's eighty.
How do I do that?  
I'm planning to cover that in a series called #shiftingperspective.





Thursday, November 01, 2018

WHY CHRISTIAN AND MY EVOLVING FAITH




I've been to a couple of conferences recently that are Christian focused-
that's two more than I ever thought I'd go to in this lifetime.
Attending the first conference was accidental-
a beloved college friend thought it would
be interesting for us to attend this little conference 
called Why Christian that was happening in Durham, NC.  
Why Christian is one of the first times where I've felt 
completely free to be whole in a public space.
A place where discussion of God didn't need to be
segregated to one kind of person, one kind of space.
A place where I wasn't a fantasist or intellectually inferior
because of my belief in something greater.
A place where what I believe can be held loosely by others
without a need to pick at my edges.
The attendees represent my bubble-the people
I am most comfortable being in communion with
people of color, women, LBGTQ, the broken and brave.

There was a flyer for another conference called 
Evolving Faith in Black Mountain NC for the fall.  
I've just returned from that event and it was profound, messy, and deep.  
Most people attending were wrestling with wounds inflicted in the name of Jesus
 and then of course, their own awakening to the wilderness.  
The speakers were from a rainbow of traditions and perspectives.  
The space was beautiful and there were also lots of topics that pushed 
us out of our comfort zones (starting with the torrential monsoon all through day one).
 Previous experiences lead me to believe that I'll spend the next few weeks
 processing before the new connections made this weekend
 will settle into something I can use more fully. 

 However, there is something rumbling around within me that 
would like a little immediate attention. 
Specifically, why am I personally a Christian?  
There were a lot of interesting people at this conference who asked
 me earnest questions about doctrine and my own beliefs.  
I didn't have a lot of firm answers for them because in general,
I don't spend a lot of time worrying about points of religion.
I don't hold legalistic religious attitudes towards God
and this is one area of my life where my heart leads before my head.
 If I've learned anything in this short life though, 
it's that we benefit from shared experience.  
In case there are other seekers like me, 
I thought it might be helpful to write down my perspective.  
Just like anything I share on mental health or tools....I'm not really qualified
 to talk about doctrine, structure, the church or much else.  
I'm not trying to convert anyone to any way of thinking-
except perhaps that love is the answer.



I've spent a long time in the wilderness-in fact, I was basically 
raised by wolves (or one wolf in particular). 
My childhood was punctuated by weekend respites from the wilderness
 at my Aunt Lillian's house.
Aunt Lillian's house was filled with magic-
creative costumes, comfy nooks, extra doughnuts, and long walks.
Sunday mornings were started with waffles and then
walks up to our church.  
Aunt Lillian sang in the choir so I sat with Aunt Ruby on the front row,
 eating sugared orange slices and playing with my Barbie.  
I learned that Jesus loved me no matter what-although I wasn't sure what kind
 of people were red or yellow-he loved them too. 
On Sunday evening it was back to the wilderness where love needed
 to be earned and would be withheld on a whim.

As I grew up, I stared into homes that seemed so much better,
 safer and loving than my home and I tried to figure out the formula.   
I wanted that white picket fence, the 2.5 kids, the parents who remained 
married and didn't look for their feelings in the bottom of a bottle. 
I wanted to be safe, to be able to trust what would happen next.
I became a disciple at the temple of conformity, chasing and catching 
the money and structures that would match this place I imagined
where people weren't messy or inadequate.
This temple turned out to be surprisingly fragile and lonely.  
I never really felt like I belonged but I did have a modicum of safety.  
I knew how to push and pull these levers,
 I knew what defined success and failure, I used the system to remain static.

In 2015, the life I built around conformity shattered.  
In many ways, I died as the carefully crafted ideas
of what I thought of as success and my own worth went up in flames.
Dancing for money or approval or belonging was not going to work.  
Labeling myself as a wife, a mother, a safe white woman
in a safe little suburb had not kept the wolves from finding me
and doing their damnedest to destroy me.
I followed the formula and I still ended up heartbroken,
standing firmly with the wild things.
While wandering again in the wilderness, I realized that I felt
more at home than I'd felt in years.
Who should I be? What promise would I trust?
God was an active presence during this time-
speaking to me directly, laughing gently at my tantrums.
'You have lost nothing worth keeping little one' She said.
Be still-and know that I am God.
So I tried to be still and quiet and listen for guidance.


What is the thing that I follow when I'm lost and can't find the ground anymore? 
What remains for me when everything else falls away?
It surprised me to realize that my North Star is basically summed up best by a middle-eastern man a couple of thousand years ago.

Love God (the Divine) with my whole heart.
Love my neighbor as myself.

It's kind of hard to call myself a Christian.
That word means an awful lot of things these days-
few of which reflect the path through the wilderness
or actually embrace all people as valued and beloved.
The Church has become the empire and abused it's power for several millennia.
I don't identify with so much of what our culture calls Christianity
 and in most discussions with professed Christians, 
I get attacked or voted off the island pretty quickly.
But I suppose that I am a Christian in the sense that these words 
are my guideposts and Jesus is my highest teacher
who I believe is an embodiment of the Divine.


I am not a Christian because I dislike other religions, 
because I think everyone else on different paths will burn in hell for eternity, 
or because I think this is the only way.
If I sit down and think about it very hard, 
then I believe that there are many many paths to God.
I think that perhaps I need to never try to out-think God or limit God...
She is most likely unknowable to me in the way that my human brain wants to define Her.
The mystery and magic of God just can't be contained or understood (by me)
 in legalistic systems that limit who's in or who's out.
It feels resoundingly TRUE to me that everybody is in.  
Always.
Them and us.
And even if someone is 'out', I am incredibly unqualified to determine which 
slot a person falls into.

I am not a Christian because Jesus died for me on a hill soaked with the blood of many;
 the imagery and story of the cross is a bloody and violent reminder to me of the
 worst instincts of humanity. 
 Humans consistently want to kill things that scare them-
why does killing God surprise anyone? 
If  you believe that we are made in the image of God, 
then you have to accept that we allow, encourage or condone the defamation
 of that image hourly. 
 If anything, the reminder of the cross draws me towards movements 
like Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ equality.  
Whatever the Empire is so afraid of that it must be murdered must be holy.

I am not a Christian because I want to belong. 
If anything, I think it is important to hold my community loosely.  
It's really easy to be drawn towards comfort and begin to ignore God.  
I have an amazing church family and tribe that walks along side me in this season.  
I know that the mix of that tribe and my own comfort within in it will necessarily 
change.  Nothing on this earth stays the same forever.  
The denomination within which I worship is addressing an important topic-
whether or not LBGTQ brothers and sisters are enough, just as they are.  
I am actively giving grace and practicing patience-
both which are hard for me-as I await the decision. 
It will break my heart to find another place to worship if this denomination 
decides to continue to not welcome these precious brothers and sisters.  
But that is what hearts are for-breaking.  
My family will not sit in comfort and give our time, gifts and service to any 
organization that wants to pretend to do the work of love instead of actually doing it.

I am not a Christian because I want to be wealthy or receive glory-
in this life or any other.  
Choosing a religion that rewards it's members with monetary or social gain 
feels like a pyramid scheme.  
I have to ask myself, who's winning there?  
If those that are poor or less fortunate are receiving punishment for 
something, who was the judge?  
How does that fit in with the broader story? 
 If I take out the symbols of peace and unity and just look at the actions, 
it seems clear that the prosperity gospel is a lie sold to desperate people
 who believe they are inherently bad.  
Do good, get good is not a new idea, is not the good news, 
is not pushing us collectively towards a new idea. 
 It's a social norming idea that has been around for several thousand years
 and is a good first step to taming savages.  
It's not particularly compelling now.

I am not a Christian because I'm hoping to be with all my friends
 on streets paved with gold after I die.  
I have no idea what happens to our souls or energy when we die 
but I have felt my grandmother beside me many years after her death.  
I can connect with the Holy Spirit right now. 
It seems to me that nothing is wasted or consumed.  
That whatever the essence of what we are...it remains. 
 It also seems to me that this earth is (or at least was) a paradise filled with magic. 
 If this life is somehow preparing me for something better, I probably need
 to use my stewardship of this life as a dress rehearsal that matters.  
If I were looking to give someone keys to an amazing kingdom, 
humans are the last race I would give them to.

I am a Christian because I want to keep it simple.  
Simple is not easy-it's actually very very hard.
Loving God and loving people give me serious heartburn on normal days. 
I will be working on these two items right up until my last breath-
which actually excites me to some degree.
I don't need to suss out new tasks or challenges-
Jesus set me the absolute hardest already.
It's chewy work worth doing that will meet me where I am-
every day for the rest of my life.
I am not going to get to the end of it and wonder...what next?
Is that all you want me to do?
I am a Christian because of the here and now,
because we are capable of loving each other and healing
each other and ourselves through these words.
I love God-but not with my whole heart on most days.
There's usually some lust for a coffee and worry
over minutiae that gets in the way.
I love my neighbors about as good as I love myself-
which means that I ignore them, run them into the ground,
forget that they need grace and have
a robust number of ways to criticize them.
I am a Christian because these two bits of direction
have served me better than anything else I've ever heard.
Love God.
Love people.
The End.