OK. I don’t usually just post a link to another blog.
BUT, here’s an exception for a REALLY GOOD article by Roger Wolsey:
So often, when tragedy strikes in the life of a Christian (well, and many others, I guess) the first response is “why?”
Why is this happening to me/us/them?
There’s also “What?”
What is God trying to teach us?
What did we do to deserve this?”
I look back at when I was in the “Charismatic” movement. Everything was cut and dry. Life, even “life in Christ” often boiled down to the reasons why. Tragedy almost always was the result of a lack of faith, God’s punishment, or even demons in the pictures on your wall. [Yes, folks. We actually taught that.]
I am thankful for my faith in Christ, and I’m thankful that although it may not seem as comforting as my former theology, I find it much more real and grounded. I thank God for so many of the “stirrings” and teachings that led to, and have continued since, leaving institutional religion. Not the least of these is no longer focusing on “Why?”
I’ve said in the past, often the answer to “why?” is simply “sometimes life sucks.”
Good things happen to “bad” people.
Bad things happen to “good” people.
I don’t get it.
But, not focusing on “why?” helps move us on to “What now?”
For sure, that doesn’t keep you from being sick with worry. It can, however, keep you from wasting time on a question that likely has no answer. Certainly no discernible one.
I hate that bad things happen to good people; things they certainly don’t deserve.
I hate that life can be so fucked-up, bat-shit crazy.
I get mad at God. Terribly terribly mad.
And still, I pray to the very God I’m angry with.
The very God whom I’m not sure will grant my request.
And I believe that God is perfectly OK with that. I don’t need to feel guilty for some purported lack of faith.
Without some form of faith, I wouldn’t be talking to God in the first place.
People, I guess, mean well. But when someone is struggling, the last thing they need is pat answers, platitudes, and a handful of scripture quotes.
“Why” is a natural question.
It’s an honest question.
But in sorrow or tragedy, it’s not a very useful one.
I know it’s not useful for me.
I don’t care why.
I need to know “What now, God?”
Well, we’re a few weeks into 2013.
I can’t count the number of times the world was supposed to end by now.
(Of course, this could all be an illusion created to satisfy us while we’re just being used as batteries to keep the machines running.)
I thought I should write something before the first month of the new year is over. Since I don’t have a specific topic in mind I guess I’ll just ramble.
I don’t get how some people blog every single day! I do think I’ll shoot for a couple times a month.
Yeah. Good luck with that.
Oh, I just turned 58 this month.
I’ll talk about that.
Ya know, I keep saying that getting older sucks, and many aspects do, indeed, suck.
But there’s plenty to be thankful for, as well.
Man. 58 years on this planet.
That seems like a long time. Simultaneously, it’s like a flash in the pan.
I feel like I’ve lived a number of different lives in that time. I should write a memoir.
I’d need help from a good ghost-writer. But I know some of the things I’d include.
I’ll give a very, very small sampling.
So many experiences.
Experiences I shouldn’t even still be alive to…
I’ve lost track of how many wrecks I’ve been in.
Crashed into a tree. Into a bridge.
Rolled a car in front of a moving semi.
Flipped a motorcycle. Just to name a few.
Hey! Ya wanna ride?
When I was younger, growing up on a farm, we used to play “pitchfork toss.” We’d see
how close we could get without actually impaling each other.
We really knew how to have fun, didn’t we?
I don’t know how the hell I survived childhood, let alone live to 58!
I got beat up a lot. (Something to do with having a “smart mouth,” I think.)
Still, they never shut me up.
There! I showed them, huh?
I’ve been threatened at gunpoint. That’ll get the heart pumping.
I had a rather odd (and not much fun) trip to the Grand Canyon.
(And, if I recall, the Painted Desert, Petrified Forrest, Royal Gorge, and the Rockies.)
Four people, camping gear, and a couple weeks on the road…
all in a Vega.
Yeah. A Vega.
It wasn’t my friends fault that I had a bad time. It was just a personal thing.
I used to go camping. (OK. Sometimes that was fun. A little.)
I went spelunking once. The kind where you start by slithering through a
hole you wouldn’t make your dog go through. I can’t say that I recommend spelunking.
Sure, it had some interesting aspects. Just not enough bang for the buck from my perspective.
White-water rafting. Para-sailing. Flying in a helicopter. Flying in little 2-seater planes.
Trips to the ocean. Trips to lakes. Multiple times sailing and other boating trips. Lots of trips to amusement parks. Trips to Las Vegas.
And many enjoyable memories of concerts (from Alice Cooper to The Monkees, to Marvin Hamlisch) and live theater performances (Like “Les Mis ”, “Cats”, “The Lion King” and “Wicked”.)
I’ve written, produced and recorded two CDs with my wife.
I’ve written (and been paid for) some articles for a magazine.
I was so happy to play a small part in bringing the movie “Blue Like Jazz” to the screen, and be listed in the ending credits.
A less than stable first five years of life.
Loved, but grossly miscast as a farm boy. Not a lot of friends.
Got in lots of trouble.
Lots of trouble.
Seriously, I was ADHD long before they knew what that was.
I had a number of teenage crushes, and at least one long-term teenage love.
Convicted, incarcerated felon.
Late-teen/early twenties evangelical. Pentecostal/Charismatic Jesus-freak.
Right-wing. “Mostly” Republican.
Became a stepfather.
I’ve worked in a lot of factories. I really need to get back to that kind of work.
Marriage troubles (mostly my fault.)
“Post mid-life” crisis.
Coke-snorting, multiple drug-taking, party-boy.
Trying hard to find my place.
Trying to distinguish what I know about myself from what I’ve thought I should be.
Trying to distinguish God from what I’ve been taught about God.
Lots and lots of grace.
Re-married (same woman).
Became a grandparent. Twice.
Co-pastor. Elder. Sunday-school teacher. Worship leader. Counselor.
Ex-co-pastor. Ex-elder. Ex-Sunday-school teacher. etc.
(Still a pastor and a counselor in a more “real-world,” organic kind of way.)
Ex-member of institutional religion.
Left-wing. “Mostly” Democrat.
Speaking of leaving the IC:
I tried hard to maintain some of the relationships I had there. Sadly, no one was really interested. Religion can so entwine some people that, to them, leaving a man-made organization constitutes leaving the friendship.
There was one man at the institution I used to attend who, I have no doubt, would have remained a close friend to this day, had he not already transitioned to the next part of eternity.
So, I went a few years without much positive social interaction. Recently that changed when I associated myself with a group called “Lifetree Café.” It’s a conversation cafe, which I’ve hosted a number of times.
We’re currently on hiatus.
A few friendships evolved out of that, as well as a 4-man discussion group/book club.
So many changes.
All of those areas of my life have seen more change in the last 3 to 8 years than I would have imagined or thought possible.
I’ve been freed of much of the horrible theology I used to accept and promote.
I learned that the “Good News” really is good.
I was pretty young in life when I was “born-again/saved/converted/came to know Christ,” or whatever you wish to call that form of spiritual awakening. I used to think that during all of the “troubles” I’ve mentioned that I somehow lost that “salvation.” A couple of the more important revelations in my life were, first of all “salvation” is not primarily about what happens after this life, and secondly, I couldn’t disconnect from God if I wanted to.
Ignore God; live out of selfishness and greed; Yes. But be separated from God; never.
2012 saw me more politically engaged than I have ever been, financially and actively.
This engagement was, for me, simply an extension of my faith and of my love for God.
I won’t go into much detail here because I’ve explored many of those issues throughout this blog.
I’ve learned to accept myself the way I am wired as a sexual being.
(If you haven’t already done so, you can read more about that aspect in my “Tribbles” article.)
I’ve learned to reconcile my sexuality with my faith, and with my life as a happily married man, without having to deny, dislike, or fight that inner part of my soul.
My wife, Kathy, is truly the best part of my life. I don’t recommend divorce as an avenue for making your marriage better, but it seemed to help us. I’ve now spent much more of my life with her than without her. Neither of us, of course, are the people we originally said “I do” with. We’ve grown together, and evolved together in amazing and unbelievable ways.
Sidelight: I can’t imagine spending all those years together – the good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful, and all the in between – while being told that our love wasn’t worthy of being called a marriage just because it was looked down upon by someone else.
58 years, so far.
Sometimes I wish I knew how much time is left on my clock. Sometimes I’m glad I don’t know.
“Some nights I call it a draw.”
One day at a time. Despite what we may try to believe, there’s really no other option. (That doesn’t seem to stop me from often borrowing tomorrow’s troubles.)
Kathy and I are discussing our retirement plans. We know we won’t be living high-on-the-hog, but we figure we should be modestly financially stable. We may still need part-time jobs, unless we retire in another country. That’s a real possibility.
I hope, in retirement, to spend more time volunteering for causes I support.
I have a deep desire to do at least one more CD.
I’d like more opportunities to put my multiple counseling studies to good use as I continue to “pastor.”
And maybe someday, I’ll connect with that ghost-writer.
Recently, I was again reminded of the revolutionary nature of many of Jesus’ statements.
In particular, one in Matthew 5:38-39a.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’1 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person…” [NIV]
OK. This passage is revolutionary for more than one reason, but here I’m focusing on what it has to say concerning our relationship with scripture.
More than one author has pointed out the anti-religious nature of what’s happening here.
Jesus is essentially saying “The scriptures say one thing, but I’m telling you otherwise.”
Or, more to our understanding, “The Bible says one thing, but I’m telling you things have changed!”
You know, I was taught (and taught others) that if you believed something was “of the Spirit,” but it contradicted the Bible, the Bible took precedence. It took me most of my life to realize we were basically treating the Bible as a god. Worse, actually, we placed (if not in word, certainly in practice) the Bible above God.
Jesus repeatedly turned the religious use and understanding of scripture on it’s head. Scripture, after all, was to point us to Jesus, not the other way around. (John 5:39-40)
This adherence to a literal, legalistic view of the Bible is what keeps getting so many people in a certain segment of our society (and in politics) in trouble. They are still mistaking book-worship for God worship.
If everything God had to say was already in a book, then God would no longer need to speak.
But, the thing is, God is still speaking.
God is still speaking, and the Bible, a precious book indeed, still points us to Jesus who came, in part, to correct our misunderstandings of who God is. Many of these misunderstandings were rooted in the scriptures.
People “hear” God, if at all, in different ways (rarely anything resembling an audible voice, although I’d never rule that out completely). More often a thought, an “inkling,” a meditation, nature, a baby’s cry, a gypsy dolphin2 or through a homeless man’s eyes.
I know. I know. “But if you say that, someone will say something crazy and say ‘God said so.'”
Well, they’re already doing that. Always have. Always will.
AND they often quote the Bible when they do so.3 So that fear, while technically accurate, doesn’t stand as a valid argument.
So, when we hear God say “You’ve heard it said (even if in the Bible), BUT I’m telling you something different,” we have a choice to make. Will we let our holy book be “useful” (2 Timothy 3:16) or will we kill for what we perceive to be the literal interpretation (2 Corinthians 3:6)?
Will we let scripture point us to Christ, and hear God’s voice, or will we continue to let the Bible be the thing that keeps us from better knowing God?
1 As Rob Bell (I think) pointed out, the whole “eye for an eye” thing was not a sanction for revenge. This was a “baby step” towards a more peaceful approach. It was a limitation to ensure the punishment was more in keeping with the crime.
2 from “Calling Me Home” by Barry McGuire
3 Think of the very UN Christ-like statements of people like Pat Robertson, Todd Akin, etc.