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.

Talk To Me – A Book Review (and personal mantra)

As an introvert, the advent of social media has been huge for me, Facebook and blogging in particular. It’s where I’ve found my voice and strength, before which I was clueless that I possessed either. It’s also where I’ve found the best and most fulfilling social/spiritual connections.

Over the last 5 years, while my local church relationships have withered and died to almost nothing, my e-relationships have blossomed into a lush and vibrant garden where I thoroughly enjoy spending most of my time and energy tending to the souls of myself and others.

I spend a great deal of effort trying to keep my head above the putrid toxicity of political/religious rants and absurdly ignorant and arrogant memes that is often my Facebook newsfeed. With practice (and a great deal of epic failure), I’ve gotten a lot better at saying what I feel needs to be said with clarity and kindness. As a result, I’m instantly drawn like flies on poo to people I recognize are doing the exact same.

Qasim Rashid, an Ahmadi Muslim, is one such insta-beacon of light piercing the darkness of vitriolic dogma and hatred. I started following him on Facebook a couple months ago and was delighted and encouraged when my newsfeed started filling up with these gems –

  • Love for all, hatred for none.
  • Freedom of conscience for all people regardless of faith.
  • All people, regardless of gender, ethnicity, or background, are children of God and all humanity should be cherished, nurtured, and elevated.
  • Recognizing the dire need for (and tragic scarcity of) humble servant leadership.
  • Crucial investment in support and education of children and protection of the oppressed.
  • Taking time to reflect on and learn from our past, especially our failures.
  • The importance of honest, respectful dialog and the sharing of our stories.

So when Qasim put out the call for bloggers interested in reviewing his new book Talk To Me; Changing the Narrative on Race, Religion, and Education, I jumped at the opportunity.

This book was entirely my jam because it consists of personal stories; about a third of them Qasim’s and the remainder from dozens of his friends and colleagues representing a veritable smorgasbord of religious and cultural backgrounds. I’ve always maintained that a personal story will eat doctrine and dogma for breakfast 100% of the time.

My absolute favorite example of this is from the Gospel of John where the religious leaders (the gatekeepers and witch hunters) interrogated the blind man Jesus had healed on the Sabbath. Rather than celebrating and marveling with a man blind since birth now blessed with sight, they ridiculously obsessed over Jesus’ heresy and “wrongness” of religion, picking apart every aspect of the miraculously healed man’s story until he blurted out, “Listen guys, I don’t know what to tell ya about this Jesus guy except once I was blind but now I see.”

I’d have to say I found the chapter of Qasim’s book written by an atheist advocating for the humanization of nonbelievers and the religious alike to be where all the narratives came together for me. I don’t care if someone credits Jesus (as I do), the Quran and the prophet Muhammad, Hinduism, Buddhism, humanism, any combination of or absolutely NO isms for their enlightenment. If the end result of any “ism” is the belief that the best we can do in this life is to do for others what we want for ourselves – THAT person shares my religion. THAT person is not only my brother/sister/mother/father, but THAT person is my partner and friend and someone I want to shoulder up with to move mountains (or at least a few piles of dirt) in whatever time I have left on this earth until I return back to it.

In an effort to move a tiny parcel of dirt, I’m asking each of my literally dozens of faithful readers to head on over to Amazon and buy a copy of Qasim’s book here  – Talk To Me; Changing the Narrative of Race, Religion and Education (and then read it, of course). Also please do me the favor of sharing this blog post on Facebook (sharing any of my blogs is like validation crack) and then do yourself a favor and follow Qasim on Facebook and Twitter @MuslimIQ.

Peeps of all persuasions, above all, whatever you do (or don’t do) double check your motivation and make sure it is love – never fear. That is the essence of our connection with each other and to whatever God there is.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love… No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. – I John 4