Category: church/spiritual beliefs


April 21st, 2019 — 6:20am


It’s been raining. Everything is turning green and my lilacs and apple trees are right on the verge of blooming. I’m one cup of coffee into my weekend morning ritual of drinking coffee by the open window, wrapped up in the first quilt I ever made, listening to the birds chirp whenever the rain breaks, focusing on the things for which I am so very grateful.

It’s Easter. The Super Bowl of Christianity. Churches all over have hustled hard to bump up attendance so they can share crackers and grape juice with the lost souls of our communities. Yesterday was Passover and I miss that ritual. The rich history of wine and herbs and unleavened bread broken with loved ones. Why does it seem like modern-day Christianity cheapens everything that was once holy?

I feel such a complicated mixture of emotions when I think of Christianity—the tradition from which I once drew my identity. When I consider this religion, I think of guilt and foreboding, fear so strong that it prompts people to disown their loved ones, friendships where worthiness comes from bible study attendance, a bible that’s used as a weapon, and the Christian Republican Party who elected, and loves, Donald J. Trump. (Are you angry? I’m angry.)

While this all but ensures I’ll never attend church again, I also know church has nothing to do with the Divine. So I try hard to see past this religion that has caused so, so much damage. I think about this: How I’ve had to lose my life to save it. The many times I have I risen from the ashes. If there is a hell that we’re rescued from, it’s the one here on earth that we make for ourselves and each other. And whatever or whoever God is, he is the one who is always, always with us.

Maybe today, for me, is about remembering the resiliency of the human spirit—our ability to rise from the dead again and again. Isn’t that such a miracle? And maybe it should be a celebration of this one wild and beautiful life—this magnificent gift we’ve all been given and the only chance we know we’re guaranteed. So let’s take this one chance and squeeze every last drop out of it.

Happy Easter

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August 30th, 2017 — 10:47am

I struggle to understand why it is so important to be so concerned with what other people do? I mean, I was raised to believe this way so I am familiar with the preoccupation with other people’s actions, especially whenever sex is involved. But, really. Why is it so important to be so worried about who someone else loves?
[Also, millennials don’t buy into a religion that builds a wall between “us” and “them” (in SO many ways.) We’re witnessing the death of Christianity and I think this, hypocrisy, is why.]

Washington Post: Nashville Statement

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April 25th, 2014 — 9:36am

This has been one of those years where I’ve examined the majority of my theology and come up short. At times this is hard for me, feeling like I don’t have anything solid to stand on. But then it feels so natural. Theology, to me, is fluid. The best way for each of us to experience God is through our experiences and our experiences change the way we see things and open our eyes and wake us up. The way we see and experience things changes the way we believe.

What I’m learning is that when I start to get caught up in what I don’t believe, when my footing feels shaky, the best thing for me to do is to focus on what I do believe. (And maybe that’s where Evangelicals and non-evangelicals can find common ground too, in the beliefs they do share.) So what I decided to do was write my own personal Manifesto. To proclaim to the world, THIS is what’s important to me, THIS is what I believe. I borrowed from and was inspired by: Glennon Melton, Shauna Niequist, Bob Goff, the Liturgists, Brene Brown and Rob Bell.

One thing I can guarantee, this Manifesto, like my theology, will be fluid.

1. We were made to love and be loved.
Love is the most transformative element in the world. It is the only meaningful thing we can offer each other.

2. The POINT is relationships.
We were made to connect and we are all connected. Let me say that again. WE ARE ALL CONNECTED. ALL of us. God’s primary tool for connecting to us and showing us love is through other people. The closer we get to other people, the closer we get to him.

3.God always comes back for us.
Redemption is his language. We are all deeply flawed but I don’t think he minds so much. I think he likes us this way. One thing that I see that most of Christianity misses is his tenderness towards our flaws.

4. Our journeys are holy.
The miracle of life is in the act of LIVING. Every journey looks different and we all get to God in different ways and at different times. That’s what makes it so holy.

5. We get to (have to) be who we are.
My life will never be what it is meant to be if I do not live it completely embracing WHO I AM. I will always show up for life eyes wide open, heart bared to the world. I will always allow and encourage others to be who they are too.

6. All lives are sacred.
We are all connected. My life is for other people and I will always work for those who are marginalized, neglected, forgotten, abused, hurting and powerless.

7. We were made to create.
Beauty is the language of life. Creating is what gives us life. The pursuit of true beauty is the pursuit of God’s heart.

8. In life, there will always be brokenness.
A broken heart won’t kill us but running from it will. The brokenness is what makes the redemption so beautiful. Our capacity for brokenness is our capacity for wholeheartedness.

9. I will not be ruled by fear.
Being brave is feeling afraid but acting anyway. I will not participate in guilt (christian or otherwise).

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doing it wrong

March 1st, 2013 — 12:18pm

I was standing in Starbucks the other day waiting for my drink and I overheard a conversation happening at the table behind me. Two college students were sitting there having drinks, a boy and a girl, and the boy was very analytically trying to talk the girl into believing in God. In Christianese this is called “witnessing.” I felt a stab of shame in the pit of my stomach, hoping that back in my more zealous, naive-Christian-days I never tried to talk someone into Jesus.

I wanted to turn around and tell him that he was doing it all wrong. That we can’t talk people into believing that God is real with books and statistics and the “Romans Road.” I wanted to say that we don’t talk people into Jesus with threats of the intangible hell or promises of a heaven they can’t see. We can’t talk people into Jesus at all. But what we can do is engage their hearts. We can tell them how he saved us: from hopeless marriages and heartbreak with second chances and plans bigger that we could ever imagine. How he gave hope when there was none and light when things seemed very dark and comfort to endless tears. That when life was really, really bad he whispered promises in my ear – promises that he knew what he was doing with me and that he was holding me safe in his hand. Promises that there would be better days, full of joy. Promises that came true.

I wanted to tell him that people can’t be talked into believing in God and that by trying to do so, we’re having the opposite effect, pushing them farther and father away. Dear college student, people can’t be talked into God, but they can go searching for him, inspired by how he rescued you.

3 comments » | church/spiritual beliefs, heart

say “thank you”

May 13th, 2010 — 8:45am

(Disclaimer: I have always been very hesitant to write about religion on my blog because I fear I will be lumped into a group that I don’t identify with. A group that thinks it knows what’s best for the world and makes it’s life’s mission to let the whole world know how terribly wrong they are. A group that acts nothing like the Christ they claim to follow. A group that I would actually be mortified to be associated with. It’s my hope that I can covey my thoughts in a way that will assure you, my reader, that I am nothing like them.)

I was raised with a very specific version of Christianity that basically taught that everything in life should be good and that if it wasn’t it was because you weren’t having enough faith. That God wanted you to be rich and that his desire was for everything in your life to be easy.

It didn’t take very long for life to teach me that this isn’t true. I realized that knowing God couldn’t be boiled down into a formula because we each are so different that we relate to him in different ways. Faith isn’t a series of words we say to convince ourselves something is true (that’s delusion) but simply believing what God tells us. I came to see that this specific version of religion put a lot of responsibility on the user – it’s our fault if something goes bad. But didn’t take into account the fact that life isn’t easy and that sometimes things happen to us that we have no control over.

I realized that life was going to be hard. I don’t necessarily think God wants life to be hard. But I think in his wisdom that is far superior to mine, he knows what we need to go through to wake us up and what will get us to the point that he can get a hold of our hearts. Conflict is what makes a good story and conflict in our lives is what makes us better people. For some reason, it seems like pain is the only way we learn real lessons. Pain is the only thing that really saves us.

What do I mean by this? I think something about the way the human psyche is wired makes us not need change unless change is forced upon us. How many truly content people look at their lives and think about how to improve it? It’s when life explodes that we realize change needs to happen. It’s when things hurt that we open up our eyes and see what we are actually living in. It’s when things hurt that we realize we need to change – we realize we need a little saving.

I think we all have points, or multiple points, in our lives that things blow up. When this happens we are faced with the choice to either let it ruin us or let it improve us. Sometimes that’s a hard choice to make when the pain is so real. And I think the key is to not fight the pain, but realize that it is going to make us into better people – to embrace it. My friend sent me this quote the other day and I keep thinking about it. It sums up what I’ve been trying to say much better than I can:

“The idea of bittersweet is changing the way I live, unraveling and re-weaving the way I understand life.

Bittersweet is the idea that in all things there is both something broken and something beautiful, that there is a moment of lightness on even the darkest of nights, a shadow of hope in every heartbreak, and that rejoicing is no less rich even when it contains a splinter of sadness. It’s the practice of believing that we really do need both the bitter and the sweet, and that a life of nothing but sweetness rots both your teeth and your soul. Bitter is what makes us strong, what forces us to push through, what helps us earn the lines on our faces and the calluses on our hands.

Sweet is nice enough, but bittersweet is beautiful, nuanced, full of depth and complexity.

Bittersweet is courageous, gutsy, audacious, earthy. This is what I’ve come to believe about change:

It’s good, in the way that childbirth is good, and heartbreak is good, and failure is good.

By that I mean that it’s incredibly painful, exponentially more so if you fight it, and also that it has the potential to open you up, to open life up, to deliver you right into the palm of God’s hand, which is where you wanted to be all long, except that you were too busy pushing and pulling your life into exactly what you thought it should be. I’ve learned the hard way that change is one of God’s greatest gifts, and most useful tools.

Change can push us, pull us, rebuke and remake us.

It can show us who we’ve become, in the worst ways, and also in the best ways.

I’ve learned that it’s not something to run away from, as though we could, and that in many cases, change is a function of God’s graciousness, not life’s cruelty.

This is the work I’m doing now, and the work I invite you into: when life is sweet, say thank you, and celebrate.

And when life is bitter, say thank you, and grow.”

-Shauna Niequist from her upcoming book, Bittersweet

In the end, I realize that I see life so much differently than I did 10 years ago. I realize that it’s a journey that won’t always be sweet, but that it is one that can always be rich… if I let it. When things hurt, I realize that it’s ok – that good will come out of pain and that it’s not my fault. For the first time in my life I feel safe… secure. I believe that God knows what he is doing with me – and it’s good and not bad and that there is always hope.

3 comments » | church/spiritual beliefs

Saturday night

March 11th, 2010 — 12:30pm

Saturday night we had one of those rare moments where someone volunteered to take our children for the night, so we decided to use the opportunity to check out the new Irish pub downtown. (This is why I love living downtown so much, we can walk to all the cool places.) We headed out and were halfway there when a homeless man in a wheel chair, with a dog, asked us where 6th Street was. “Three blocks that way,” I pointed. Turns out he was looking for the homeless shelter, which was quite a few blocks away. After we had given him directions and he started to wheel away Jim asked him if he was going to make it. He said “I hope so.” So Jim volunteered to push him for awhile.

We ended up pushing him all the way to the shelter. Jim wheeled him in the door and we wished him well, as we turned to leave we heard someone inside the shelter yelling at the man saying, “I told you to be here at 7pm. You can’t stay.” Feeling some responsibility now for this man, we went back in to try to work things out. Apparently this shelter has a strict policy: If you’re not there for the preaching, you don’t get to stay for the night (or meal).

After Jim was unable to get anywhere with the shelter, I tried to no avail. My stupid blackberry (luckily) took that moment to work and I was able to google and call the other shelter in town. When we found out they had room, we called the man a cab and waited for it to arrive so we could pay for it. The other shelter required that anyone staying with them blow a “0” on a breathalyzer and the man assured us that he could. I hope that when he got there, he did, and got to sleep somewhere warm that night.

Jim marveled at the exact timing involved… that we were walking by just as this man was crossing the street. I’m thankful for Jim’s willingness to help someone we could have just as easily walk right by.

I have to say, when I was in high school, I used to volunteer at that first shelter on Saturday nights. I don’t remember or didn’t realize their policy about not feeding people unless they were first there for the preaching. We work with a local nonprofit that supports 3 orphanages – 2 in Africa and 1 in Mexico. Their slogan is “Hungry stomachs have no ears.” How true. How can you hear anything anyone has to say when you’re starving… or freezing? How can the “salvation of your soul” mean anything to you when you’re too worried about making it through the night? I feel ashamed of those who wear Jesus’ name as a badge, but don’t act like him. I can’t help but think “Christians” are taking 1 step forward and 3 backward.

3 comments » | church/spiritual beliefs

the christian way

March 25th, 2008 — 4:36pm

“How we treat the creation reveals how we feel about the creator.” – Rob Bell

I have not yet had the time to research it in the Bible specifically, but I personally believe that it is a Christian principle to take care of the planet that we live on. I am happy to see that my beliefs are being echoed amongst many mainstream Christian leaders.

(Please note: I do not necessarily agree with all statements made in the above link. But I do feel that it is a large step in the right direction and worthy of commendation.)

4 comments » | church/spiritual beliefs, green


October 15th, 2007 — 8:17pm

There continues to be an ongoing conversation about church with the people in my life. And I continue to try to come to terms with my stance (or lack thereof) on the subject and always find it hard to put words to where I stand.

A friend of mine sent me a link to this article and I think that it pretty much sums it up for me… quite a bit.

It, I think, also agrees with this article about my generation (or close to my generation) that I read a while back.

Here are a few quotes from the first article that I can’t get over.

“This generation has the gift of discerning authenticity in the church, Shaddix plainly stated.”

“The traditional church will survive and thrive if its people have a change of heart about their God.”

Good stuff, yo.

2 comments » | church/spiritual beliefs, daily

The problem with being a Christian…

September 21st, 2007 — 12:47pm

…is that it’s easy to think that God owes you something. And that life should be perfect and that we’re entitled to whatever makes us happy. But, whatever God gives us is a gift. We should be so thankful for whatever that may be. And living a life that Jesus commands means that we put ourselves last, not first.

Life can be so backwards sometimes…

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book review: Blue Like Jazz (or learning a few things about myself)

May 30th, 2007 — 12:24pm

So I finished reading Blue Like Jazz last week. I realized when I wrote it that I was naive to expect Answers from a mere book, but I think maybe I was so desperate that I found some anyway. And I’m not sure that the answers I got were in the writing as much as in the realizations I saw in myself.

First thing I realize: I don’t know God. I keep trying to leave Him and I can’t. There is something in my heart that is connected to him and there is no denying that no matter how much I try. So I know that he is real, but WHO is he?

There was a time in my judgemental youth that I was sure I knew God. I knew that he wanted me to be radical for him and tell other people that they were wrong for not living (the way I thought they should) for him. That they were wrong for cussing and partying and smoking and sleeping around. I was pious and judgmental and had every appearance of being Very Good. Out of everything I’ve done wrong thus far, that is the one time in my life I regret the most.

I cannot say how much.

I think it was some time around November that I realized that I don’t know God. I was expecting him to do something for me. Actually not for me, but for someone I love. I was certain that he was going to come through, certain that I saw the way he wanted things. I was wrong. Or human mistakes messed up what God wanted, but things did not turn out the way I expected. And after 20 years of being a “Christian”, I found myself further away from knowing him than ever. And it wasn’t that he wasn’t there, it was that I deluded myself into thinking that all the “good” and “righteous” things I’ve done in my life were a replacement for knowing who he is.

Although it was then that I realized that I don’t know God, it wasn’t until reading this book that I realized that knowing God is what I’m missing, what I need. The author points to something real in his own life, something undeniable and very raw. Something that as a “Christian,” I’ve never truly experienced in my life.

I realized that if there was something there between me and God other than me expecting things out of him and being hurt when they don’t happen, I would not be so hurt by the bad experiences I’ve had with “his people.” I would not have looked to my pastors and my time at church to fill what I am missing from not knowing him. Of course knowing that does not negate the fact that I’ve gone through some crap regarding church, but it points out to me why it hurt so much.

How do I know God? Well, I’m not so sure about that part yet, but it doesn’t scare me like I thought it would. I think, if I stop looking at him as a slot machine, that would be a good start.

Second: I realize that I really do want to go to church. (Don’t fall out of your chair.) It may not be church as we know it, but I know I’m desperately lacking a community. I wrote awhile back about being lonely, but this book pointed out to me how detrimental being lonely is. Wow, do I see it in my life. I’ve spent the last 5 years being stuck in my house with two small children. Two small children that I love, but two small children that I have not had enough patience to train to behave the way I expect them to in public. I’ve been a prisoner in my own life.

That is going to change immediately.

Knowing that the kind of church I want exists in Portland, gives me hope in that it does exist somewhere. I’m not so sure I’m going to find it here, but I know now that I need to keep looking. I know that I want to belong to a community of like minded, beer drinking, swearing, cigar smoking followers of the Jesus whose first miracle was to make more booze for a party. Actually… scratch that, I want to be around people who are themselves, not people who are trying to fit into a cookie cutter mold of what a Christian should be (or what I wish a Christian would be). If they drink beer great, if they don’t great, just as long as they’re not viewing themselves as superior for abstaining. I want to give all I can give, and receive all I can receive. I’ve never been a part of something truly healthy.

So, overall, was I disappointed? Not at all. I think I was inspired. I needed to see someone who views God differently than I’ve been raised to view him. I needed to be reminded that he is more than what I can get out of him. I needed to be encouraged that things in the religious world CAN change and that we are not so far gone that we can’t love people without a hidden agenda. That being a “Christian” doesn’t have to be about politics, hating gay people and being Very Good. There is hope. There is hope for me and there is hope for church. And having that hope is a very good thing.

10 comments » | church/spiritual beliefs

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