Living Above the Curse (Original Sin)

If you are reading this you are obviously human, and as such, dear human, I have some wonderful horrible news for you – You are cursed.

The wonderful part is that none are alone in our cursedness, and through this universal suffering we are connected to all humanity in all space and time. Our curses are inherent in biology, psychology and personal experience. There is nothing new under the sun.

There are many flavors and degrees, but the truth of being human remains – we all come into this world stocked with a unique set of genetic and family-of-origin dysfunctions that constantly entice us away from loving ourselves and therefore each other.

As I said before, I’ve read and understood the bible for myself since early childhood. I’m going to unpack symbolism from the Genesis account of the creation and The Fall of Man that I’ve seen for a very long time as well as things I’m just now understanding that have great personal significance.

Here’s the base of where I’m coming from:

  1. I don’t take the Genesis account literally. To do so would be the height of ridiculous willful ignorance and to dismiss the inherent sacred metaphor that holds all value in the text. If you really want to argue the reality of a talking snake and that all of us originate from 2 humans poofed into existence a few thousand years ago, much less believe in a “loving” God who would condemn all humanity to suffering and death because the original duo added some enticing forbidden fiber to their diet…*SIGH*…I just can’t even anymore.
  2. The Ancients knew what was up and wrote what is almost certainly a version of an even more ancient oral tradition creation myth containing a stunningly rich take on what it is to be and relate as Women and Men.
  3. The survival instinct is inherent in our biology and psychology as human animals. We’re wired to exploit others to get what we want (food, sex, protection, power). I personally believe that to rise above our animal nature (curses) in order to love ourselves and each other is what it means to be uniquely made in the image of and to commune with and incarnate Whatever God There Is.
  4. Gender, sexuality, and personality are fluid and on a vast spectrum, and you and I and all of humanity that has ever existed fall in unique places all along it. It’s an objective fact of nature. For the purposes of this particular blog post, I’m speaking from my own perspective as a heterosexual cisgender woman relating to heterosexual cisgender man (look it up if you are unfamiliar with any of those terms). But we each have both male and female energy/hormones flowing through us, and despite the strict binary we’ve been taught exists (but absolutely doesn’t), the biological and psychological manifestations of gender are WILDLY varied. I encourage anyone solidly identifying as Man to get in touch with their inner Woman (She’s there, and to deny Her is to everyone’s detriment). Same goes for Women. It is only to our benefit and that of our families to identify and relate to the masculine nature that inhabits us all. We are One.

Here’s the bible study I was never going to get in my former tribe that I’ve had a hankering to do for a very long time –

It Is Not Good For Man to Be Alone – Creation of Woman

But for Adam no suitable *MATE WITH STRENGTH TO SAVE HIM* was found. 21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs[g] and then closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib[h] he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

23 The man said,

“This is now bone of my bones
    and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
    for she was taken out of man.”

24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

25 Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

Take away points:
  1. * The Hebrew word “Ezer” that Western self-proclaimed Bros of God translated and adapted to fit their own purposes as “helpmate” is the word used throughout the Old Testament for God coming to the rescue and saving His people. This Woman – Ezer – is uniquely endowed with a divine strength and drive to endure incredible extremes to protect and nurture (save) her Family. God declared it was not good for Man to be alone, and Ezer was the suitable mate, the final crowning act of creation, after which God declared it all to be very Good.
  2. Man was God-breathed from dirt. Woman came from FLESH. How much of Man’s psyche and drive is about satisfying his own flesh by seeking FLESH outside himself? How connected to the care and maintenance of FLESH (her own, her children’s and her mate) is a Woman? All FLESH is perpetually created and comes forth from Woman. Marinate on those gender differences in relation to FLESH for a while.
  3. In the original unadulterated (un-cursed) union of Man and Woman THERE IS NO SHAME and they are ONE flesh united.

Jesus would later be attributed to saying, “Therefore, what God has joined together, let no man separate.” I take great issue with how my evangelical tribe has twisted this to mean divorce is a sin over which God is most pissed. Jesus simply stated the reality of natural consequences – violating and splitting the sacred Oneness results in SELF-imposed isolation from each other and God, and it is devastating. That is what shame IS. We humans do it to ourselves, and because we’re wired to intimately bond, everyone suffers from the betrayal and rejection of love and connection. Jesus made it clear – we have a choice. We always have a choice to maintain the connections of love over our own self-imposed and inflicted isolated shame. There is no shame or condemnation in Whatever God There Is that Jesus was talking about. Shame and disconnection is all man-made. WE have to sever the bonds of the reality of love and walk away into selfish delusion. WE have to refuse and deny reconciliation and the redemption of love. There is an ever-present Great Deceiver and Accuser within ourselves, determined to undermine reality and convince us to trade the truth for a lie – to abandon love and connection and embrace shame and isolation and entitlement to self gratification at the expense of others.

In order to sabotage the Oneness of God/Man/Woman, why did the Snake target and appeal to the mind of Eve rather than Adam (who was right there with her)? Patriarchal religious tradition has maintained it is because of Woman’s inherent weakness and depravity, to which I call epic bullshit. She was targeted because of her strength and power, and the Deceiver knew exactly who it had to undermine and get through first. There are few things as formidable and fierce as an awake and aware Woman embracing her identity as Ezer; therefore, to deceive and numb Her instincts first (and to keep her that way) is imperative. The Deceiver/Accuser/Snake knew exactly what it was doing.

Bada bing, bada boom, the humans partook of the one thing they don’t have the capacity to handle yet are irresistibly drawn to in an attempt to achieve equality with God – the knowledge and power to judge good and evil themselves. Gender-specific curses ensued and the Sacred Oneness fractured for the now shame-filled Woman and Man.

A Woman’s Curse

14 So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,

“Cursed are you above all livestock
    and all wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
    and you will eat dust
    all the days of your life.

And I will put enmity

    between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring[a] and hers;
he will crush[b] your head,
    and you will strike his heel.”

16 To the woman he said,

“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
    with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
    and he will rule over you.”

Goddammit, a woman can’t even go to the bathroom herself much less be left alone to her own curse. She doesn’t even have the luxury of dealing with just one either. Hers are MULTIPLE and connected to everyone else’s – the snake, her children, and her husband – through her flesh.

Of course Woman herself ain’t above lying and manipulating, but have you noticed how severe a reaction you typically get from a woman who’s been betrayed and lied to? “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” an English Bro Dude poet once observed. It’s because you don’t just lie to and betray HER. You threaten EVERYTHING SHE’S CONNECTED TO.

This is a 3-part series, the second dedicated specifically to the female curse of Desire that entices Woman to hand over and deny her power and strength to be ruled over and used by Man. The final installment focuses on the brutally heavy Curse of Man that crushes the ego and the resultant toxic fallout. Both are in the context of my own marriage and are intensely personal.

I share out of my experience as a human. I share out of my experience as a Woman. I share to work out and untangle and make sense of life. I share knowing full well it is way too much and never enough and there is no shortage of people ready to tell me just how far off their mark I am at all times, and this is exceedingly valuable. I share because vulnerability does not allow me the delusion of an achievable “rightness” of thought or action one can own or impose, which is the essence of that Original Sin; making criticism, no matter how well or poorly intentioned and executed, crucial in the untangling process as I muster up the discipline to tamper down my pride to embrace the discomfort. I share because within that mess of working it out I find deeply fulfilling points of connection with others and restoration to the Great Truth of love. I share in order to identify and purge the lies and shame within myself that sabotage love and connection. I share in order to forgive myself and others. I share for anyone to take or leave whatever they can or will using whatever labels work.

Whichever labels you feel most comfortable using and wherever you fall on the sacred spectrum of humanity, thank you for sharing your time and care to read this and connect with me.

I AM

Happy, Happy new year and a warm and massive cyber hug to all as we enter 2017. I’ll take and freely give all the hugs and love and kindness possible wherever they are found.

I’m going to use my first post of the new year to introduce myself as the new me that has actually always been. There are some things about me you should know to put everything I write going forward into some context. There was a time in my old life when I would have written separate blog posts for each of these things, explaining them in detail in the hopes of persuading people to at least respect what I see instead of shitting on me for it.

Life has radically changed for me, and ain’t nobody got time for that in the new life that is. So much shit has rained down on me that I now dance in it and make art rather than try to outrun it or hide, or worse, deny its existence or try to pretty it up to be something it’s not (LIE).

The old life was 25 years of marriage, 22 of those spent in evangelical christian ministry together, the last 5 of which we (Love of My Life and I) embarked on an exodus out of Church World to plant a funky little honest church ourselves that was doomed to “fail” from the start because it was one where any human of any persuasion, any belief or lack thereof, was welcome to participate, love and be loved as is. We gave up everything and ultimately ended up losing more than we’d ever imagined possible – our very lives together – though isn’t that exactly what Jesus said was the price to be considered? Anyhooo, that truly is for a separate blog post.

So, in the new life (whatever that’s now totally free to be), here’s a quick summation of my current (and fluid) theology/psychology/ideology/methodology around which everything I say and do emerges, and I care not one whit what anyone thinks of it. If you follow my writing for whatever reason, even if only as a vulture to feast on the carcass of my family to poop out as gossipy judgment (why would you stop now after the last 5 years of pecking away at our flesh before we were even fully dead?), knowing the following will at least put things in perspective:

  • All God talk is human talk. All we have are human ideas about God. The only experience we have of Whatever God There Is happens in the gray matter between our ears, individually. The second anyone tries to enforce any idea of God as absolute certainty is the second I smile politely and disengage. The second anyone does harm to others with their god-in-their-own-twisted-image certainty is the second I go into verbal smack down mode. I have no pride, shame or fear left in me to cause me to either shrink back or have any further need to self preserve, defend or explain myself. I’ve never been more confident and peacefully assured in my faith and absolute uncertainty than I AM now.
  • I have always had an awareness of and communed with Something Other both wholly outside myself and wholly inside myself that I learned to call God since my earliest memories, around age 3 or 4. It was always plural – a They – and there was a definite female component. I never thought to question it as it fit perfectly into my Tribe’s doctrines of the Trinity, with the exception of the female part. I’ve always gone against the grain of my tradition and personified the Holy Spirit as female, though also knew very early on to keep that shit to myself if I wanted the belonging and acceptance (which was THE most important thing to me) of my Tribe.
  • I AM is the identifier God gave Moses. Jesus invoked I AM for himself, and that’s good enough for me. I simply AM. What is, IS. God is existence. God is reality. To be who I AM with full integrity and to let everyone and everything BE what it IS without inserting my own desires and agenda for any of it is, to me, to engage, participate in, and BE the divinity that is inherent in being human.
  • I’ve always read and understood the bible for myself for what it is since childhood – and loved it. I never really found value in taking any of it literally, though I forced myself to suppress my true instincts and knowing in order, again, to be accepted by my Tribe. To question the “inerrant” literal truth of the bible meant brutal and immediate rejection. To do it as a girl at any age? Forget it. More shit I absolutely knew to keep to myself – even from myself until recent years.
  • Whatever meaning or “truth” to be found in life is in metaphor, patterns, echos, cycles, seasons…and the bible is my endlessly rich base source for the poetic language I use to tell my own story and I will continue to dive into and mine scripture in order to do so, now more than ever. But I am not bound or restricted by it. Sacred metaphor is absolutely everywhere and I call it when I see it, however, wherever it presents itself. “Love Thy Neighbor As Thyself” is echoed throughout all cultures, eras, ancients and contemporaries, poets, artists, children, old women, heathens and holy men alike – and I pay attention to them all. If I had life to do over, I’d be a professor of anthropology and religious studies. As a profession it’s not practical at this point, but the studying and going wherever my fascination takes me is just getting started. It is an exciting time to awaken and go after my own life.
  • I AM a Christian, an identifier I’ve decided to keep for myself alone and to myself alone without any further need to justify or explain my right or reason for doing so ever again. I identify my entire story, my entire life with Jesus and the birth/life/death/resurrection metaphor of his and the sharing in his sufferings of rejection and humiliation that I’ve gone all the way and lived out and will continue to cycle through until my last breath. Salvation and redemption are to be lived out HERE – NOW.

The above picture is me at age 7 (AKA the real Princess Leia), the last time I was the most me as I AM that I can remember before learning, as we all do, to shove the truth of my divine self down deep, believing that was the only way to be worthy of human love. I’ve missed that sweet nerd so much. Almost 40 years later, she’s back. She’s awake. She has surfaced, and she’s gunna rock the world.

Mama, Help Me

Mama, help me! Please be real

Mama, help me! Hold my hand

This absolute brilliance

To see things as they truly are is more than I can bear alone

Mama, help me…help me…help me

I listened and followed you out

My senses instantly assaulted with stench and horror

A legion of putrid corpses exposed

Mama, help me! Hold my hand and walk with me through

Mama, help me! Please be real

Don’t leave me here to die in the light…alone

Journaling That Doesn’t Suck 09/27/2016

Went for a slow walk yesterday around the fake lake. It wasn’t exercise as much as knowing I have to get out and begin moving, to start putting one foot in front of the other. It doesn’t have to be pretty or accomplish any other goal than moving forward steadily.

Didn’t listen to any music to distract myself or try to elicit a cheap emotional release. Just walked and BE’d.

Said “hi” to a lot of friendly people getting their exercise on. Smiled at their dogs.

A little stormy weather was coming in from the west. Looking east, though it was around 9 a.m., the line of dark clouds not quite eclipsing the brightness of the sky in that direction gave it the illusion of a sunset.

What is your impression of the picture above? Is it a sunrise or a sunset and how does one tell without being there? Impression and “feels” mostly. I dunno. Perhaps if I looked it up there would be a more sciency explanation like more particulates in the air at dusk…but at any rate, my first impression upon looking east was that it surely looked like a sunset at 9 a.m.

Insert the obvious life metaphor. Although I’m pretty sure that’s entirely my problem right there. I assume what’s so goddam obvious to me and speaks for itself SHOULD be apparent to everyone.

But it’s not. Some days (like all of them lately) it seems like the whole world is upside down in delusion, insisting the sun is setting and it’s time to sleep  when I KNOW it’s a sunrise and it’s time to get busy with the day.

How do I know?

Because the sun rises in the east and I know which direction east is.

So was your initial impression of the above photo a sunrise or a sunset? Arguing about which one is truth is pointless without being there. It’s absolute fucking madness to be there in person, day after day, the sun rising and setting in the same place as it always has, and STILL insisting a sunrise is a sunset because it just feels right…or you prefer it to be so.

Do what you want, World. I’m done engaging anyone and anything that trades the truth for a lie and would rather live in delusion than the most basic self evident truths.

I’m hoping last night was a collective turning point and that a majority of us have a clear sense of direction and know the difference between east and west, day and night, and will act accordingly.

I’m getting busy in the day while it is still today. Who’s with me?

Shut Up and Sing

I made my bed, and I sleep like a baby
With no regrets, and I don’t mind saying
It’s a sad, sad story
When a mother will teach her daughter
That she ought to hate a perfect stranger
And how in the world
Can the words that I said
Send somebody so over the edge
That they’d write me a letter
Saying that I better
Shut up and sing
Or my life will be over? – Dixie Chicks

Once upon a time, we were offered 6 figures to climb the corporate church ladder and be entertainers in an even bigger and better church than we were already in. We turned it down. It’s quite a story from there.

The short of it, the second we stopped singing at the church we’d remained loyal to in order to minister with integrity, they broke every promise they’d given of support, disowned and ghosted us, leaving our family of 6 hanging with nothing.

We kept our baby church alive as best we could for 3 years right under the shadow of the Big Bro Church. I’ve really got to hand it to them. They were (and continue to be) absolutely amazing at pretending not only that we don’t exist, but that we never did.

Jimmy is still there. I couldn’t take it another second and fled to where the love is with my family.

So imagine, if you will, what it was like for us last summer, as we were making the tough decision to put our church baby on hospice, when my husband received a text from the former boss who’d wanted us so badly 5 years prior, demanding he silence his wife.

I was saying dangerous and heretical things.

Here I was thinking I was nothing to no one. Turns out I was a very Scary Girl.

Alright Bros of God…you only want to hear my voice if it’s singing?

Here ya go.

Scary Girl lyrics

The Day I Officially Came Out as a “Done”

 

October

I’ve only attended church twice as a nonprofessional in the last few years, and both times were in Nashville. Just about this time last year, I made a trip out to see my oldest kids and used the opportunity to meet my blogging brother, John Pavlovitz, as he was speaking at an LGBTQ-affirming church in Franklin. John and I already had a legit friendship/kinship established and had a blast finally meeting in person.

john

The next day, my daughter Kathryn and I made our way to church to hear John speak. It was in that service during the worship time (church-speak translation: music concert/congregational karaoke) that I had quite the jarring epiphany.

I knew it was time to pull the plug on Four Creeks.

That in and of itself wasn’t the thing. We’d been coming to the end of everything for a while; people, money, sanity…will to live. Jimmy and I had set out to have Four Creeks be a church community where absolutely anyone of any persuasion, background, identity, ethnicity was valued and welcome to participate in absolutely every facet of church life. We did exactly that. It just turns out there wasn’t a market for it where we were, at least not one we were capable of tapping into by ourselves without resources and support. We had zero of either after the church that originally sent us out yanked everything out from under us very early on. We knew from the start we were dead walking. It was just a matter of time.

As I looked around the sanctuary at the beautiful diversity of humans worshiping together and the genuine love and enthusiastic community all the congregants shared, I welled up with thankfulness and awe that it did exist somewhere and that I was there to witness it. That Sunday last October, seeing the dream in vivacious reality in Nashville in stark contrast to our terminally ill child at home, I knew the time had come.

There was only a relieved resignation in that thought. It was the next one that I had never prepared myself to consider. If Four Creeks ceased to be, if our 20 years as professional Christians truly was coming to an end, what now? What kind of church would we want to join and in what capacity? Then came the epiphany.

None.

This was the exact moment I allowed myself to BE what I’d already been inside for a decade in Church World – DONE.

As glad as I was that this church existed and that so many people were being loved, valued and finding value in it, all I could think as I was immersed in the familiarity of a typical worship service that just about anyone else from my evangelical tribe would find familiar and appealing (except for worshiping along side a married gay couple or 20) was, “I don’t need this. I don’t want this for myself.”

Having been on the production end of church my entire adult life and living behind the veil working with pastors and church boards as employers (dear, wise friends when we were lucky; dangerously insecure and immature mega jerks when we weren’t), I’m basically ruined for the entire church machine. I can’t just sit back and enjoy the show. I haven’t had the luxury of finding value in church from that side of things since I was a child.

I get other people finding value in the routine, their preferred music (whether it be modern praise band, hymns or liturgy) or looking to their favorite pastor to inspire them. I just don’t. Having been raised in that world with a view behind the curtain, my oldest children don’t either. My youngest have zero concept of it as all they know of church is Four Creeks, which by both design and fate had no programming or any traditions to speak of other than simply meeting, breaking bread together and studying scripture and its practical applications with integrity. Kathryn and Ryan have since expressed just how relieved they are that their younger siblings won’t be raised in the church culture they were (before Four Creeks). I am too.

I’ve heard a lot of people admit that even if they themselves don’t really want to go to church, they feel they should for the sake of their children. I’m just weird, I guess. I told my therapist that it is for the sake of my children that I don’t want to go to church ever again.

That was last Thursday. Three days later I went to church with my children…because I wanted to…and it was profoundly healing and wonderful.

 

JTDS 9/2/2016

Today I AM Angry

So, so sad and angry. I finally went to therapy for the first time yesterday. It was only an initial consultation. I did all the talking, just trying to put as much of the backstory out there as possible to give her an idea of where I’m coming from and out of and struggling to move into. The one question she did ask me towards the end of the session, “Are you angry with God or feel like He’s abandoned you?” My answer was a swift and resounding, “No…not at all.” Though the dismantling of every single life box where I’d sought security and certainty for myself has undone me in every way, I am convinced it is God Themself who drew me to and through this excruciating process. And the more undone I’ve become, the more connected and at peace I find myself with Whatever God There Is and the more sense Jesus makes.

Conversely, as time and distance start to do their thing (healing/resetting) I’m finding myself feeling safe to release it all. I’ve been holding back for the safety of others; my family, innocent and unaffected friends, but especially those who directly persecuted and murdered me and my family. As much as I hated what was being done to us and as messed up as I was, I knew that to fight back would mean devastation for ALL and would bring entire families down with me. I couldn’t do that. So I absorbed as much as I could. I threw myself on the bomb. A messy solution that disgusted many, but the only one I felt there was.

But I’m not in that place anymore. I fully accepted and took up that cross and died on it. Now I’m being resurrected. The torturous march towards death is now a rambling exploration out in the wilds, teeming with life and possibility. The process of years and years of absorbing and suppressing toxicity and being blown apart beyond recognition is in reverse now. As I flesh back together piece by piece, toxicity and death are released.

Having a safe place/objective person without agenda who will let me tell my story and give me the needed support in making sense of it is vital in recovering significant pieces of myself. A lot of toxicity being released today, the day after. I suspect there will be many more “day-after” releases to come with subsequent sessions.

So today, I AM angry and sad…and it is good and healthy and safe that I AM. It is reality. And Whatever God There Is – IS – by definition, reality.

Journaling That Doesn’t Suck – 8/24/2016

Good advice. Not everybody has profound personal spiritual experiences. No one can experience what I experience and vice versa. Ultimately, whatever experience we do or don’t have is between the individual and whatever God there is alone. Whatever we can say or paint or sing or write about transient and transcendent spiritual experiences comes down to art. Our God talk will never = truth that we should impose on anyone else. Yup, ignostic I definitely am.

Note to self –

  1. Never shit on someone else’s art.
  2. Be a prolific artist yourself. If anyone else relates, appreciates and finds value in it, that’s extra gravy. Maybe you’ll inspire a few artists to beautify the world. Maybe those few will multiply exponentially. I’ll find out on the other side, but that’s not my concern here and now. As long as I’m drawing breath on this side, pay attention, be inspired, and express freely and honestly, with or without an audience.

20160824_135900

Journaling That Doesn’t Suck

I’ve always been a writer, but I didn’t realize it until 4 years ago when I broke and began blogging out of necessity to live. I quite literally felt like I would die if I didn’t express myself, even at the great risk of exposing myself to further judgment and hurt…and boy did it.

I’ve journaled non-religiously (because I wanted to and it felt good, not out of a sense of obligation that I was “supposed to”) throughout my adult professional religious life. I’ve got a few journals spanning the last 20 years wherein I poured out my heart and soul to myself and whatever God there is as I understood Them at the time…and the evolution of my voice reflects as much. The earlier years are formal full paragraphs and I bothered with punctuation and proper grammar and such. What’s funniest and most cringe worthy to me now reading the me of yesteryear is the repressed and stilted language I used, addressing God as “Lord” and heavily salted with all kinds of christianeze platitudes and catch phrases to express my most intimate thoughts and feelings.

LAWD, that poor damaged child, speaking to appease and avoid condemnation of the church biddies even in my own head, prayers and private journals. Stiff and stagnant as those early journal entries may be, I can still see the nuggets of revelation and inspiration that inspired me to write at all, and I was diligent about dating them and revealing some context of what was going on in life at the time.

Then there were the years where my entries were all about figuring out how to do church, thinking there was some magic formula of reading and studying and praying just right that would make it all come together. Gah…I can’t even handle looking at that now. All I want to do is reach into those pages and pull my tortured soul out of that toxic wasteland into sunlight and freedom. I look at the date of every hopeful entry where I was doing my darndest to pull myself up by my bootstraps, stay positive, do and say all the right things, and like watching a horror movie, I see the monster around the corner who’s about to devour the unsuspecting damsel. It doesn’t matter how loudly I scream, “No! Don’t go in there!”…she does…and it’s a bloody, gory mess.

My voice definitely evolved over time, or…devolved, actually, as everything I’d been led to believe and think crumbled away bit by bit until the final crash and ultimate deconstruction. The last few years, if I journaled at all, it was mostly short phrases and ideas, sometimes even just a word. Toward the end, that word was “FUCK.” When you’re a mangled bloody mess, it just works and brings a certain level of comfort and release when you can find precious little of either anywhere else.

Blogging had become my journaling…sort of. More like journaling on steroids. I do absolutely love the medium to talk about the things that are important to me, but it takes me hours and hours to get one out, usually using more words than most care to read. I can’t Tweet to save my life. The challenge to say something meaningful and witty in 140 characters or less….ha, ha, ha…NO.

I’m going to use my natural wordiness and passion for story telling to write a book, sooner than later, but on the way and as part of that process, I’m going to resume journaling and share them here on the Cage-Free blog – jotting down random things for no other reason than I notice them and want to document and save for posterity as blocks I might use to build something substantial down the road. That’s not work for me but 100% pleasure and how I make sense of and recognize the sacred in life 24/7. It ain’t preaching or trying to convince anyone of anything. It’s simply what I see as I go.

You (whoever you are) are so very welcome to see too…or not. Take or leave whatever you will, my blatherings are offered freely and without condition or expectation of what anyone else will do or think about them.

20160823_113014

Now to figure out what I want to do with these. Part of me wants to burn them and release that poor repressed caged girl once and for all. The communal BBQ right outside is calling to me.

Coming Out

Hello from the other side.

I’ve been away from blogging for a bit as I’ve been undergoing the final stages of a massive life overhaul, “massive” being a bit of an understatement.

Here’s a list of things that if you’d told me even a year ago I’d be doing now I’d have laughed in your face or possibly slapped it:

  1. Terminating 20+ years as a professional christian.
  2. No longer identifying as christian, except when I do (more on that later).
  3. Getting a tattoo.
  4. Relocating to Tennessee after 30 years as a California resident.
  5. Living separate from my husband for an indefinite number of years.
  6. Changing my political affiliation from Republican to Democrat with the intent to vote for Hillary Clinton.
  7. Learning to be happy, confident, healthy and whole – mind, body, and soul – for the first time in my life (despite the majority of people I know being unable or unwilling to accept any of that to be possible considering numbers 1-6).

The process of coming out has been exactly that – a process – spread out over the last decade, the final fiery refining crucible in the last year. The years leading up to this big one were all about wrestling with my comfort and security lust to be able to get to the place of being willing to die to everything in order to see what remained  – what held true – after all that was consumable and expendable was burned away.

To contextualize my life in biblical metaphor (which I’ve always instinctively done since childhood), the last 10 years were my garden of Gethsemane where I agonized over whether or not I was willing, or even able, to go all the way. The last year was Good Friday to Easter Sunday, actually doing it and seeing it through to the end.

My first post-resurrection blog is an attempt to reveal the pure mustard-seed-sized gold nugget that remains now that the flames have subsided. I totally just mixed my metaphors there, but you’re with me, right? That’s all I ask, friend…that you stay with me without fear or agenda. Hear me. See me. Me is all I can be anymore and all I can give. That said, here’s all of me that remains after dying.

Oh Hey, I’m Ignostic

I’m a personality profile, self-reflection junkie. I’m obnoxiously obsessed with it, really. Perhaps this is over compensation for my personal lifetime baggage of believing my true self was not to be trusted or respected. Figuring out the real me and then loving her by honoring and trusting her has been the single most important thing I’ve done in this process. Realizing the futility of looking to any other human for my self worth, be it my parents, church people (gah, such disaster there!), or even my husband, was the second most important discovery. Though it’s natural to do so, it is unfair to the other person(s) and doomed to result in bitter disappointment and distract from the real work that only I can do in myself.

That’s why I get super excited when I come across words or ideas that perfectly explain what it is I’ve been feeling but haven’t yet been able to put together cohesively in my own mind, much less able to explain to anyone else.

The concept of ignosticism or igtheism was one such “Oh, there I am!” liberating discovery.

Here’s a boring wiki explanation, should you care to read http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Ignosticism, but this is my take on it –

You might be more familiar with agnosticism, which claims nothing can be known about god’s existence, so the agnostic claims neither faith nor disbelief in god.

As an ignostic, one may claim genuine faith and spirituality based on personal experience (as I definitely do) but considers all god talk to be stupid, and by stupid I mean wholly inadequate to explain or quantify whatever god there is (my way of saying the “One True God”).

This very much includes my former tribe’s canonized god talk, the bible.

I no longer see the bible (though it was demanded I must) as “God’s Word.” I do see it as 100% the word of humans, gloriously representative of the complex mix of ridiculous, horrible, lovely, noble and sacred that we all are.

Am I calling the bible stupid and without value? Absolutely not. As I showed you above, the biblical stories, metaphors, and traditions are intricately intertwined into the tapestry of my life, from which I could no more untangle myself than I could unravel my own DNA…nor do I wish to.

Whatever honest human expression we create in regard to a conception of god is not stupid. It is holy and god-breathed in as much as a human made in Their image is. But to declare any of it to be absolute truth and to justify dehumanizing those who disagree CANNOT be God, and no matter how great the external pressure may be to conform, I will have no part in it. I’ve lived through (or rather ended up dying because of) so much human arrogance in the name of God.

Ironically enough, I take great comfort as I read the bible and see this cycle being played out over and over throughout the ages. There is nothing new under the sun. We have a long history of slaughtering prophets who dare challenge their culture’s iron-clad and bejeweled God Box, culminating in Jesus himself.

Sooooo, with this new perspective, I no longer entertain any thoughts or discussion regarding absolutes of “God is…” or “God says…” or “God wants…” but if a person is willing to engage in discussion centered on “what God is like” based on Jesus’ words and example, then I’m more than happy to engage.

The only absolute god talk that has any value to me is –

Whatever God there is, IS (I AM). God is Love. 

The only practical application (religion) I’m left with then is –

I AM in God’s image as a human. The only way to experience God is through my humanity. To worship/commune with/experience God is to cherish and honor the divine I AM that I am and the divine humanness of my neighbor. 

The quickest way to get me to disengage is to get angry and aggressively defensive with this very personal conclusion, as it is the only thing that remains after the inferno as my mustard seed nugget of faith and hope. If the simplicity of this so unhinges you, then you cannot handle ME, nor will I give myself over to you to be handled.

Heaven, Hell, afterlife? I don’t the fuck know, and – this is important now – neither do you, your grandma, your pastor, any preacher or teacher (celebrity or otherwise), religious tradition or any human that has ever lived and died on this planet, not even and especially the ones who wrote/edited/compiled/translated the writings a fraction of us in time and space call the bible.

You can tribe up around whatever god talk in which you find value and I won’t try to talk you out of it or think less of or belittle you (THAT would be stupid), but the only way for me to be now, on the other side, is tribeless – cage free.

Which begs the question:

Am I a Christian?

Hmmm, it’s complicated. I guess it depends on who wants to know and why. I know for a fact that I’m disqualified from being considered a “true Christian” by my former evangelical tribe’s standards. I’m well acquainted with the parameters of that particular God Box, and I definitely don’t fit within its confines. I tried stretching my legs within that box, but the tribe would have none of it. Rather than even consider doing a little remodeling to accommodate natural growth, they shoved me out and told me in no uncertain terms that I was not accepted there, for which I’m exceedingly grateful.

I’d spent so many years contorting and distorting myself in order to fit within that God Box that I honestly thought that muted and mutilated version of myself WAS my true self. I don’t think anything less than being ejected from that world would have gotten me out in the open and free. I was disoriented and in tremendous pain at first, but now I’m hitting my stride. The possibilities are wide open before me and I’m free to roam. Every once in a while someone within the box tries to shame me back in. It’s getting easier to just smile and say, “Nah Bro, I’m good, peace out” then continue to explore freely rather than waste any energy arguing about boxes.

But do I identify as a Christian anymore? Sometimes. Sometimes not. The week before we moved, my youngest son came down with strep throat. In the emergency room at 2 a.m. the clerk taking down our information asked about religious preference/affiliation in the event of a hospital admission and need for a chaplain. I paused for a second and then did what would have been unthinkable at any point prior in my life. I declined to identify as Christian and answered “none”…and it felt so deliciously right.

It took me a second to realize I had a big stupid grin on my face and how weird that must have looked, but that’s just it; no one cared. Nothing happened. No lightening bolts from the sky. No one jumped from around the corner to revoke my christian membership card.

Instead, a peace that made no sense, especially considering I was in the ER in the wee hours with a sick child days before moving, washed over me as I just let it BE what it IS, which in that moment truly was none, nothing, nada. I’ll have to do a separate blog on this sweet revelation and release into nothing and how I’ve never felt more connected to Whatever God There Is there.

Believing Jesus

On the other hand, I’ve never been more grounded in my understanding of what it means to be a follower of Jesus, so in that respect I am solidly and wholeheartedly Christ-ian. Again, the irony is great, but it is the shedding of all doctrines requiring specific beliefs about Jesus as being necessary for a get-out-of-hell-free card that would have most Christians I know refuse to consider me one of them. That used to bother me…a lot. I got over it.

It’s much easier now that I’m living in a place where no one knows my story and no one filters my identity through the labels of “pastor” “church” or “christian.” I get to approach each new relationship on my own terms, revealing what I choose to reveal about myself organically, no longer imposed upon and controlled by a system that tells me who and how I must be.

I’m free to believe Jesus without restriction and in full integrity as fearfully-wonderfully-made divine human me; free to live in and act out of the Great Truth of who I AM while upholding the sacred worth of every human who crosses my path without judgment or defensiveness.

What’s in a Name?

At one point I seriously debated whether or not to rename this blog, dropping any trace of “christian.” I also considered whether or not I wanted to (or should) continue to be the administrator of a FB group I started, Beautiful Rowdy Christian Bloggers

When I died, my appetite to convince anyone with god talk died as well, and much of what was being posted didn’t jive with me anymore. I don’t fit in the Progressive Christian God Box either, though that one is roomier, constantly being redecorated, and usually worth visiting from time to time, but I won’t be taking up residence there. It was the posts from fellow beautiful, rowdy prisoners struggling to be free of all boxes and find their footing on the outside that convinced me to stay.

Ultimately, I decided to retain the label of Christian, however loosely, whether anyone else thinks I have the right to it or not. It is no longer the unbearable, ill-fitting burden it once was. It was necessary and good for me to drop it completely for a little while, and Jesus never once balked or told me to get back in the box.

No. This is who was waiting for me just on the other side of death (gunna leave ya with yet another metaphor based on Matt 11:30) –

“Hey Girl, been waiting for you out here. Give me that ill-fitting burden you’ve been carrying for so long. It was never meant for you. Rest now and recover. When you’re ready, I’ve got a custom-made pack that fits you just right and is light enough to run with.” 

Be sure to check out David Dietz’s blog about God in a Box here. It was a major “Oh, there I am!” epiphany for me when I knew I was ready to start running again.

Peace out, Peeps of All Persuasions. You’re inherently beautiful and worthy. Do whatever you have to do to stay rowdy and running free. You are not alone.


*Inconsistency in capitalization of “christian” and “god” throughout this writing is deliberate and not a whole lot of typos. If I feel it, I capitalize. If I don’t, I don’t, no matter what formality dictates I should. I’m letting whatever IS BE regarding all things personal god talk.