Grace

two-faced-drama-rebellion_by_QueerAngel8900

If you teach grace for yourself but demand the law for others, it’s time to fire your pastor.

Definitions…

 

Definitions

I think that some the terms we throw around so effortlessly may be due a revision in their definitions.  As long as I can stay interested in the project I’ll try to take a new word with each submission to re-define for a modern age.  Might be fun, might anger some, maybe, just maybe…it might help us to all get on the same page going forward.  Here goes.

Easter…

Easter week is upon us and everyone seems on their best behavior.  What a  pleasant time.  Funny how certain religious holidays bring out the best in people only to be quickly forgotten once the season has passed.

Easter has always puzzled me.  To steal a line, it is the worst of times, it is the best of times all rolled into one event.  Everything from gore porn reenactments of the crucifixion by wanna be actors to kids looking for easter eggs dressed in their innocent finest.  Easter seems a paradox.  Men can finally wear light colored clothes hidden in the back of their closets through winter and woman feel compelled to wear gaudy hats which block the view from at least two rows behind the wearer.  The ladies hats more resemble an afternoon at the Kentucky Derby than church but that’s tradition for you.

And then there’s the message.  At one time some well meaning preacher found himself hip deep in a Grey’s Anatomy text book and decided to fully comprehend how a crucifixion destroys a body.  From this one investigation, preachers have been detailing the most horrendous display of man’s cruelty upon another for decades.  Parishioners are spellbound as the storyteller portrays the step by step agony of this torture, right down to the tearing flesh and spikes splitting tendons to nail a helpless victim to the cross.

Never has this description of the death of Jesus made complete sense to me.  I accept with immense gratitude the sacrifice made on my behalf.  There is no question this was a horrible manifestation of cruelty freely enacted on one so undeserving.  All of this I understand.  The question that arrises is not the removal of the message but the elimination of the grotesque depiction used to guilt people into acting more passionate about their faith for the moment.

My desire is that the focus of Easter could be the message of hope offered through the life of Jesus and the promise of a better tomorrow would be more than enough to change lives.  It’s certainly been enough for me.  No amount of blood splattering or comprehension of how the cat-o-nine tails decimates the flesh will make me walk in deeper passion for the message of Jesus.  Yet, for too long and in too many places Easter services become akin to christianized slasher movies freaking out the masses and leaving worshippers with so much guilt and no means to assuage it.  This is reprehensible and must stop.  As a former children and youth minister, I promise these images don’t just wear off, instead they leave children traumatized and fearful.  Scared, scarred and confused is a horrible life for a child.

Easter is about the Sunrise, the promise that a new day dawns when old old has passed.  Easter is about renewed opportunity to live life to the fullest and seek new opportunities to love and embrace our fellow man.  Easter is about availing ourselves to reconciliation with forgiveness and grace extended to those we hurt or excluded.  Easter  is waking up knowing today I’ve got another chance to make a difference, to do something meaningful in the life of another.  Easter means we don’t have to accept our lives as they are and each day we can change if we so desire.  One doesn’t enter into love from fear, only from love does one come in.

Easter is joy presented in the life, message, and desire given freely by this man Jesus.  That’s what I’m after.  That’s enough of a message to change the world.

The Show…

Hearing the rapturous applause, I stood still and drank in the achievement.  This was a mind blowing event.  I’ve never encountered such a moment as this.  In my nearly 50 years walking this earth I never encountered such a truely moving experience.   My actions have caused this audience to gasp, laugh, clap, cheer, and now stand to their feet with appreciation.  Mind you I’m very aware that this production was a team effort and each led amazingly to the final successful affirmation.  But right now I’m choosing to be selfish and just focus on me.  I walk as though my feet slide across the air touching nothing.  This is a moment meant not to be forgotten.

Laughter is a tremendous gift to provide others.  For those two plus hours, members of the audience thought nothing of their own needs, their own sadness, and their own desperation.  For a little more than two hours these people were transported to another place and time where reality doesn’t matter, and this moment is the epicenter of life.  This is the place where for a brief period in time, the present reality can be enough.

If I’d known all of this about performing in theatre I certainly wouldn’t have waited until I was 45 to begin.  But this much I’m sure, I’m glad I did at least start.  I found a gift within me I previously failed to understand.  I’ve now found a means to make others smile.  I think this is an important vehicle that needs to be unleashed and allowed to roam free.  I love the idea of making others happy.  It’s a great feeling.

Today I’m resting ever so briefly in the moment I was privileged enough to share.

Theatre does make a difference.  I’m grateful for being allowed to play.  I may be growing older but I’m not giving up just yet.

Why I don’t think “Right” anymore…

A friend from college who I share many philosophical and political leanings recently wrote of his rationale for having a liberal mindset apart from his more conservative roots.  He challenged me to describe my journey as well.  This is my story.

Why I left the “Right Way”

My post college experience left me with a great void.  I found myself watching the Breakfast Club and St. Elmo’s Fire over and over relating to the different characters and the frustration of accepting this next phase of life.  I was an idealist who had a good heart that sought out a means to make the world a better place.  I didn’t know how but I was determined to change the world.  In hindsight I should have joined the Peace Corps, instead, I chose to tackle my calling through the church of my understanding.

That was my first mistake.

Then I went decided to go to seminary.

That was my second mistake.

I jumped in and learned the protocols, procedures, and belief agreements all leaders of the faithful needed to ascribe.  I was taught the key catch phrases that determined my superiority in all theological arguments.  I learned how to sit properly, speak eloquently, and divine the eternal destination of those I would soon encounter.  I had it all, except, the ability to think for myself.  I had it all, except, the ability to see people as human beings not spiritual targets.  I had it all, except, the understanding that love always trumps the law.  Grace was understood as something I should expect for my shortcomings but not avail to others who genuinely needed it for theirs.

Then I was hired at a large church

That was my third mistake

 

Finding myself on the staff of an aggressive growing church that had a pastor whose ego never met its match was a time of unusual opportunity for me.  Our church had offended all the other churches in the area with its prideful claims to God’s sole blessing.  While other churches struggled with maintaining status quo we organized our troops to covertly marshal away families and bring them into our fold.  Nickels and noses drove our congregation.  Grace was never a topic spoken aloud.  We were the marine division of God’s holy army and nothing would stop our manifest destiny.

People I cared for and appreciated often found themselves struggling with relationships.  These families were kept out of the spotlight so not to soil our pristine image.  By now I was a solid student of the game who knew my marching orders and followed without any reservation.   But these families and their difficulties caused my calloused heart to soften when I heard the depth of their pain.  Their hurt didn’t fit into the carefully scripted understanding I had of God’s will for his people in the church.

I began to question what I believed.

This was my fourth mistake

When I started to reconsider my understanding and acceptance of what I believed it soon caused a major divide in my own home.  A successful pastor shouldn’t experience such questioning.  My private conversations with staff members and the senior pastor about my newly discovered concerns only exacerbated the problem.  Soon I found myself a pariah at home and at work, I had no where to turn, I was alone with my thoughts.

Soon the news came that my married life would end and I would need to strike out on my own.  It didn’t take much time to see the world I came from had a new interpretation of my value.  Friends began treating me differently; phone calls were slow in their return, if at all. Meetings with church leaders made me aware my presence was welcome but not required or needed.  I suddenly found myself face to face with the reality that I was now an outcast in the only world I knew.

But how could they do this to me?  I’m one of them.  For goodness sakes, I’m an insider.  Did they forget all I’ve accomplished?  What about all those recognitions for my work?  I was a somebody!  Now I’m a nobody?

Suddenly a light went on.  If they treat a wounded one of their own like this, how do they treat other imperfect humans God has invited to share the same table?  The posse I now ran with consisted of the people in the church that always kept to themselves and never seemed to get involved in anything.  I used to despise them.  Now I understood for the first time why they acted so seemingly strange.  They were all they each had to survive, they only had each other.  These kind folks didn’t trust the faithful to love them; they wished to avoid further hurt so collectively they slid around in the shadows of the church trying not to be noticed.  Imagine so wanting to participate in the love of Christ that one accepts so much rejection, pain, and judgment just to be near the holy.  Fighting for scraps of acceptance makes me wonder is it worth it?

I learned about pain by experiencing it for myself

That was my fifth mistake

 

Dealing with so much pain and rejection from those you previously centered yourself around can open up a whole can of crazy.  It wasn’t until I could say without reservation FU*K them all that I started to regain my footing.  I held hands with the lepers of today’s church; I broke bread with these widows and orphans who have been left out in the cold.  I developed compassion because I was just like them.  It became hard to hate them as I was taught because I now learned to love them.

I enjoy a good fight and now I had something to fight for and a hideous monster to fight against.  My mission going forward would be to stand up for those left out, those considered unworthy, those cast aside and unwanted. My battle would not just be for others it would now be for me as well.   Forward I march to fight and I will not stop until my breath is taken from me.

Righting wrongs and standing up for those who can’t help themselves.

This certainly isn’t a mistake

 

It’s not a big leap after such an experience to see the fallacy of rightwing political and religious craziness and wish to create as large a distance as possible between them and you.  At least that’s what I did.

When you seek to be a compassionate human being, thoughts of being part of the might is right organization seem much less important.  When you desire love and unity, being the person with all the answers falls by the wayside with silly abandon.  It was as if magically, one day my eyes just opened and I saw the king was indeed naked after all.

Many from my past today are confused by my lifestyle to say it politely, but more accurately many think I’ve lost my way and probably have taken to worshiping elves under mushroom caps.  Realistically, they probably think I’ve spent too much time with the mushrooms in the first place.  To those who think I’ve left my right mind, well, yes I believe I have.  I wish those from my past well.  Good luck on your life.

Know this about me.  To the best of my ability I’m trying to honor the teaching of the master the same way you are.  Just don’t judge me if I’ve taken off the tinted glasses of my youth.  Besides, on some of you, those glasses look really nice.

Progressively pressing forward.

Coming Soon…

For those of you who’ve asked, I”ve about passed the blockage in my brain.  My writing constipation is coming to an end.  Hopefully soon more can be added.

Me

Me the feminist…

New Puppy 021

I hope my girls never settle.  I hope they never accept another’s viewpoint as their own.  I hope they take their lives to the extreme edge of life and fulfill all desires imaginable.

I’m a feminist! There it’s out there and I won’t back down from that statement.  I won’t modify nor debate limiting the definition of same.  I feel women are every bit as capable as men to do just about anything.  If we are truthful we men probably would say women are better in most areas.

My feminist outlook has been evolving for a period of time.  Something about being the father to five girls changes a man’s worldview by softening entrenched ideals.  All the images of manhood and life are slowly melted away when I think of my girls being denied every possible chance in life imaginable. 

I’ve taught my girls from the time they were old enough to understand, possibly long before that time as well.  They were challenged and encouraged to seek the highest level of life that their dreams would allow.  That there is no summit too high that can’t be reached nor any obstacle too powerful to overcome, dreams are to be lived out loud. 

The greatest dream crusher for the female species has been the church.  Men have used this holy writ to maintain power and control everyone else.  I feel sad when I stand to teach a bible story to children and weekly find the hero to be a man.  Who is the role model for our ladies of tomorrow?  Who is their hero? 

Sure the early church fathers threw a bone to the ladies by including the likes of Phoebe and Ruth.  It seems simply unimaginable that there were so few women of influence leading the charge during this very instrumental period of humanity.  I refuse to see modern life through the same misogynist eyeglasses used in days of old.

God doesn’t create two types of people, one to dominate and the other to be sub-servant.  I don’t see it that way.  I see God calling all his creation good and men and women equal.  That what is being a feminist means to me.  Seeing women as every bit equal to men.  In many ways, women would make better pastors than men.  Compassion goes much further than punishment.

Girls…seek out the most for you lives.  Stay away from people who try to keep you down.  You need no one else to either make you happy or to fulfill you.  The world prepares a banquet before you to enjoy.  Grab a plate and load up.  Don’t wait for any man to tell you when it’s your turn. 

There are mountains to climb girls…go get busy!

Prayer IV…

Prayer can either be the foundation of a belief system or the source of frustration that keeps us from true harmony with our creator.  De Mello pushes faith to places many find uncomfortable.  He makes prayer so simple compared to the teachings for many involving so many complexities.  These complexities seperate many from the loving embrace awaiting all of us.  Dr. De Mello takes questions and provides insightful response.

Prayer pt. III.

Here is the third of a four part series discussing prayer by the inspiring Anthony De Mello.  Careful attention to his teaching demands individual accountability to ones present reality.  While this may seem obscure to some, for those that see beyond the present, life long change becomes a viable option.  Be warned…The more times Dr. De Mello’s teachings are heard, more truths are revealed to the willing listener.

100 Things Meme…

I’ve always found these an excellent means of wasting time.  Highlight the items that pertain to you and leave the others alone.  Pass this on to your friends and fill your time with something pointless.

1. Started my own blog
2. Slept under the stars

3. Played in a band (jr high – trombone)
4.
Visited Hawaii

5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than I can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland/World
8.
Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sung a solo 
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched lightning at sea
14. Taught myself an art from scratch

15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty

18.  Grown my own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight

22. Hitchhiked(but never again)
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort

25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping(sorry kids)
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset

31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person 

34. Visited the birthplace of my ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught myself a new language 

37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
40.
Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44.
Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had my portrait painted  
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater

55. Been in a movie(tv show)
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62
. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial

71. Eaten Caviar
72.
Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square 

74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79.
Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book 

82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem 

84. Had my picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible (Uh. No… hee hee.)
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury 

91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person

96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Ridden an elephant