They Tell Me I Am Broken.

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Today in church,

They tell me I am “unclean.”

Unclean?

Yes, they said. “Unclean.” “Dirty.” “Broken.”

I said, “But how?

My legs carry me to quiet gardens. My nose catches the scent the honeysuckle. My eyes soak in the colors of the sunset. My arms lift heavy boxes and my hands stroke soft kitties. My feet keep me balanced and tap to contagious rhythms. My mind reasons, imagines, and creates. My spirit is always shifting, processing, feeling, listening to the undercurrent of words, movements and actions. My soul leaps when it comes across the Divine.

 

So “Why?” I ask, do you say that I am unclean?
You want me to feel guilty and grateful.

You want to control my feelings and actions.

You want to guide me into a certain way of thinking, feeling, living.

Always indebted, always broken, always failing, never enough, never enough never enough.

 

You tell me there is something inherently broken, something inherently wrong with me.

Yet I am supposed to love myself? To see my worth? To live in this body and soul and love them for what they are?

 

Then something is wrong. Something is wrong with the method and something is wrong with the reason. Because this, this is not what I am.

 

I am whole and always have been. I am human. I fail, yes.

But I am more than my failures, my alleged broken and “sinfulness.”

 

I am human and therefore,

 

I am also Love.

 

And isn’t that what’s the most important of all?

How do I tell them?

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I feel as if I have no place in mainstream fundamentalist faith/church anymore.

My beliefs, my gender, my questions, my doubts, my different ideas are unwelcome are deemed “heretical.” Possible options for me now: I’ve gone off the deep end. I’m “lost.” I’m no longer a Christian. I’m essentially a heretic. I’m a liberal (period). I bought into what secular society is selling. I’ve lost my way. I’m worldly. I’m letting the world change me. I’m becoming “of the world.” I’m screwed.

How do I even begin to break the ice on the concept of who God is to me now? And not just the concept but the feeling.

Damn. I miss that feeling.

That one where you’re held. Where you feel like you just know.

The one where God and Jesus make sense and all you have to do is tune into the divine and you’re emotionally recharged.

The one where the worship songs make you feel something. Make you feel connected.

The one where you’re excited to sing and pray and be taught.

Just being sure. Having a constant. Knowing who God is, knowing your place in church.

I’m tired. I’m tired of fighting the institutions, of asking questions and getting back answers that confirm what I feared was true. Of hearing lies and inequality and fear being taught. Of having all of it be bigger than me and feeling helpless in fighting back, in being a strong voice that offers a different opinion.

I think the thing that scares me the most, or that makes me the most anxious, is actually being asked or talking about all these changes, especially with my family or with someone who seems to be full force on the path I used to be on.

People who know what they know, ya know?

How do I tell them I don’t believe it’s a sin to be in a same-sex relationship (not in spite of the Bible, but because of it)?

How do I tell them I think gender is fluid, dynamic, and on a spectrum?

How do I tell them I affirm all queer people, included people who are transgender and want to have surgeries or simply identify differently than their sex?

How do I tell them I believe women should be leading in church? That there should be female deacons and elders and ushers?

How do I tell them I don’t believe women should have different but “equal” roles in marriage?

How do I tell them I think Islam is the same path to God?

How do I tell them that God is not Male? That God can be imagined as female?

How do I tell them I don’t know what salvation is anymore?

How do I tell them I don’t know if I believe in hell anymore?

How do I tell them I don’t know if substitutionary atonement is what I believe about the cross?

How do I tell them?

It’s a complete 180 from what I’m supposed to believe. How do you explain a complete switch, a complete flip-flopping of your beliefs?

They’ll think I’ve accepted too many worldly ideals for myself. But ya know, maybe that’s exactly what’s happened. Maybe instead of sexism, racism, homophobia, and blind faith, I’ve embraced equality, reason, and acceptance and love for all people.

If that makes me cracked, heretical, a lost soul, then so be it.

Church: Healing or Harmful?

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So I went to church on Sunday.

It was my first time back in 3 weeks, because I was home for spring break and as such, attended my old church with my family.

I didn’t take communion there the first week.

I don’t know what happened but normally I’m able to work through my feelings about the male hierarchy stuff there and enjoy, but I just couldn’t that week. It was like the songs were hard enough to get through, the Communion table had so many parameters (am I still welcomed even though I’m a questioning-doubting-sometimes-Christian? I wasn’t sure), and it all felt wrong.

So I peed instead.

The last week was better. And I did fine. I enjoy the teaching and music normally, it’s just hard to accept the traditional setting and atmosphere.

So back at the church that I actually choose and enjoy attending. I got teared up at least five times, simply because I was overwhelmed with what I felt when I was there. I talked to Steve who shared with me how long he’d been attending (13 years!) and how he visited a number of churches before, but he believes this one is special. He says it’s special because this place and these people are open to different ideas that are more broad and more inclusive of all people. I said “STEVE YES! YES YES! This is a special place you are so right.” You can just feel it.

Reverend Lisa talked about how the church and Jesus’ followers are and were a group of misfits. Which means we all fit. And it means all the people who “don’t fit” in regular society are the ones Jesus wants. And the ones we’re meant to do life with.

I sat there and the voices and the music, the light and the people, the wholeness of it washed over me.

And it was like my soul, my heart, my spirit healed a teeny tiny bit. It was like the pieces of my thoughts, doubts, and beliefs that were sharp and poking me and causing me great discomfort finally just stopped. And a little part of my soul and spirit mended. It sounds dramatic. But that’s what it felt like.

I got a picture of some of the pieces of myself fitting back together. And I got a picture of my very self, being loosely sewn back together.

I left a little more healed and a little more whole.

It’s amazing that church can be the place where you are harmed the most and hurt the most.

And yet, it can also be the place you are healed and tended to and mended too.
Thank you thank you that this is a place for me. I literally don’t know who I’d be without this place. Yay for healing and inclusion and focus on the marginalized, the outcast, the oppressed. Yay for a focus on love and companionship and walking with everyone through life.

Rev. Lisa’s benediction at the end also made me cry. It was about God going before us and over us and underneath us knowing and reminding us that we are loved more than we can even begin to grasp.

So to all my fellow nomads and wanderers. Misfits and doubters. Skeptics and critics.

I am you. If it wasn’t for this very special place, I wouldn’t be in church at all, and that’s ok. But I hope that someday, each of us will find a place, any place it doesn’t have to be church, where we find love and inclusion, peace and connection, acceptance and joy.

Where healing and wholeness touch you.

Amen.

It’s Winter, but I’m Sitting in the Sun

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You know those days where you feel like if you hear one more worship song you may SCREAM?

Well that’s been my life for about the past 6 months. I avoid the songs as all costs. I try to steer clear of the Bible because I know my knee-jerk reaction is to judge it and hate it and get angry with it and the people talking about in.

If I have to listen to one more sermon by a straight white Christian male I may go bang my head against a wall.

And so, instead of these fundamental Christian basics that I’m supposed to be practicing, yet in reality am actively avoiding, I am practicing silence.

It seems if I do any of the old things, I feel like I’m just digging a deeper hole for myself. So as much as my 20 years of training to read the Bible, pray and worship and listen to sermons is calling me EVERYDAY to sink back into where I used to be, I’m learning to shake my head and sit with this discomfort of feeling guilty.

I have to say no to these things, because they put me right back into the system and ways and modes of thinking as before.

So I sit with the discomfort and instead seek out the God that is supposedly all around me and bigger than He or She.

I sit in silence and focus my thoughts, quiet my mind, and wait to sense feel picture something…

Today it’s the Founder’s Garden. There’s a fountain I can hear really quietly. The sun. The  grass that was the prettiest green the last time I was here is now dried and dead.

I laughed out loud when I saw it because I feel like it represents my journey so well. I sat on this bench in August and cried and pleaded internally for someone to NOTICE and guide me because none of it made sense anymore. I was holding on and simultaneously learning I had to let go.

There’s not really an option to going back to the way things were, to what I know so well.

So now, here I am. I haven’t been back in a month, maybe two, and the grass is dead kind of like my old spirituality.

Is that terrifying? HELL YES! But is it good? Hell yes.

I’m learning that it’s ok to feel the things and lean into the changes and the discomfort of those changes. The feelings and thoughts and despair and seasons of change aren’t permanent. They are just seasons.
So just like the dead grass represents my old religious spirituality, I hope that when I come back maybe new spurts of green will be popping up.

Maybe, just maybe, spring and newness and something better is on its way.

But right now, it’s still winter. Yet, I am here, on a bench, sitting right smack dab in the middle of it, soaking up the sun.

Welcome Back to Earth

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It’s quiet. Ahhh. I’ve been waiting for this for a while.

The solitude gives me shivers. Shivers of happiness and joy.

This is where I learn to be. This is where I rediscover me.

 

The cool grass folds beneath my feet as I walk. I savor the feeling of the grass between my toes, the dew that makes it stick to my feet. The feeling of walking barefoot and unencumbered.

Touching the ground— skin-to-earth is one of the best things there is. It’s like I’m back where I’m meant to be.

 

I smell. Oh, the smells, the smell of the trees. The ground, the sweet grass, the dandelions, the other weeds that are some of the most exquisite flowers I’ve ever seen.

The breeze, I almost forgot. The breeze, is what makes me want to cry. It takes me to a different place, a person, a spirit, a feeling, a word, a world.

I’m held. I’m seen. I’m loved. I’m felt. I’m someplace else.

Wiggle your fingers and the air whistles through each of them. You know nothing’s there, but you feel the wind in the spaces between your fingers and can’t keep from thinking that you feel your hand being held. It’s as if the Holy Spirit has slipped her fingers into yours and your hands are interlocked as you walk along.

Where do I find God you ask? In the untouched, unarranged, and beautiful disarray of nature.

Whatever or whoever God is anymore, I couldn’t tell you exactly. All I know is that nature and trees and grass and skies and wind and scents and anything green and brown is holy.

Walking barefoot across the grass.

Iron and Clay

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I am made of iron and clay.

I am strong and hard and do not bend,

yet

I am constantly shifting molding and melting.

I can be brusque and tough and never falter,

yet

I can be tender and malleable, constantly fluid.

What am I made of?

I am made of iron and clay.

How To Navigate A Loved One’s Changing Faith (Or Help Them Navigate Yours)

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Yes yes yes.

john pavlovitz

ConsoleEdit

Faith moves.

It is never static. Whether we are religious or not, even in the times we feel most settled in our beliefs, things are always shifting. As we head through time and space we are renovated by circumstances and experiences, by people and relationships and we are constantly, gradually being altered. Immobility is a myth.

Inevitably most people of faith will face a crisis of faith. Chances are you already have, maybe a few times or a few thousand. This may consist of only a handful of moments when questions rise up and then quickly subside, or a sustained season of heavy doubt that lingers. It might be a subtle eroding of some small things you once felt were true but are no longer sure of, or you may have had the very bedrock of your belief system pulled out from beneath your feet, leaving you in free fall.

And when we go through these faith-shaking, soul testing…

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