Floods, Drowning and God

Credit: Michael Ciaglo/AP

Now flood every portal of my mind
And flood everything I’ve tried to hide
I am looking to the sky
And I’m calling for a flood
Submerge me, Lord, in holy water
Drown me to live in You
Flood every corner of this room
And fill all the emptiness with You
Lord, we long to be consumed
And we’re calling for a flood                        – Calling for a Flood by John Waller

Lay me down in the waves
Let the water wash away
And if I leave with the tide
In the morning I will rise
So lay me down
Don’t lift me out
Let me drown                     -Let me Drown by We As Human

Have you seen the images coming out of Colorado? Do you remember Katrina? How about the Tsunami of 2004? Have you read the story of Noah in Genesis?

Floods suck. Floods are terrifying, destructive and unpredictable. They cause death and destruction and heartache. People drown. Drowning is not peaceful or pleasant.

Let me be clear, I DO NOT WANT GOD TO FLOOD ME WITH ANYTHING. I DO NOT WANT TO DROWN IN HIS LOVE or HIS MERCY or ANYTHING ELSE.  Can we please stop using this imagery?

The word flood is used in the Bible 47 times. Only two of them are positive. One is in Malachi where it talks about the floodgates (think of these like the spillway doors on a dam) of heaven being opened up to pour out a blessing too big to be able to be received. The other is in Isaiah where it says, “I will extend peace to her like a river, and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream”. Neither of these sounds like the life threatening floods mentioned in many worship songs. Often these songs allude to floods of love, grace or mercy sent by God that result in our death by drowning. And we sing them. Often to saccharine, lilty tunes with a peaceful feel to them.  I’ve got news for you..

The word drown is found 10 times in Scripture. NONE OF THEM ARE GOOD.  There is no mention of a peaceful river of blessing where Jesus lovingly holds you under until you can’t breathe. And no room, as the song above mentions, where people happily begged God to drown them in his presence like Charlie on LOST.

I know people try to make this flooding and drowning imagery about baptism. But the scriptures never teach this. In Romans 6:1-11 it says,

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Yes, we identify with the burial and resurrection of Jesus when we go down into the water and when we come out. We obviously are not literally dead, nor do any (non cult) groups advocate actual physical death in order to escape sin. The way in which we identify with his death is by recognizing that through Jesus we can be dead to sin; that is, sin has no more power over us because God is no longer holding our sins against us. No flood. No drowning.

Listen, I understand poetic license. I understand literary imagery. I understand figures of speech. I don’t expect every song (or any song for that matter) to only use words out of the 66 books of Canonized scripture. What I don’t understand are metaphors comparing what Jesus offers to death, destruction or war. Yes, I said war. One song I have heard actually says, “If you are the war then let me be your casualty.” No. No. No.  JESUS IS NOT THE WAR and WE ARE NOT HIS CASUALTY. EVER. He is however, the author of life and the prince of peace. He died to absorb wrath not to bring it. He does not bring destruction he delivers us from it.

My friend from Colorado told me this morning that some people are using the recent flooding in her area of Colorado as an occasion to liken actual floods to God’s flooding us with blessings or flooding us with the spirit. Please, no. Make it stop. That kind of talk is insensitive at best. God’s blessings look nothing like a flood that has left thousands displaced, a rising death toll and more than 1,200 unaccounted for.

In defense of the F-word. WARNING: GRAPHIC LANGUAGE (duh.)

Don’t throw your verses at my sins like stones.
My Jesus ain’t your sword.
Your scripture bombs don’t work on me.
My bindings have been torn
Your flaming tongue can’t touch me now.
My standing has been set.
I don’t need you to approve.
I’m not your fucking pet.

Don’t say my sin turns Christ away
He touched the lepers’ sores
Don’t tell me he can’t stand by sin
He crashed tradition’s mores
His insane love fills in my gaps
His righteousness my own
Keep your judgement to yourself
His grace to me he’s shown

Keep your righteous indignation please
that turns people away
I can’t look you in the face
When with people’s soul’s you play
You cover your ass when things go bad
Instead of coming near.
You protect what’s yours when faced with truth
Actions that come from fear.

Throw your body on the flames
to protect the threatened child
Bring cold water as a drink
to those convicted in trial.
Cover and feed, Defend those in need
Break down your prison wall
Let those who need a doctor in
Isn’t that us all?

Sometimes life is too fucking hard. This was that kind of week. I have friends who are in pain; the kind of pain that denies purpose and defies explanation. I have another friend who was told that her worship was not equal to theirs because of who she loves and her perceived sins.

We had a discussion in the car the other night about swearing or cursing and specifically “the F-word.” Some people are of the mind that there is never a time to use the F-word. And although I believe it to be vastly overused, it is my contention that there is absolutely a time to utter a well placed F-bomb. Let’s-be-face-it* lovelies, there is a time when saying “that is messed up” just doesn’t get the job done.

Fuck is the most powerful word in my personal lexicon that I am willing to use. I don’t use the C-word nor do I use the N-word because they demean people no matter the context. One reduces a person to their skin color and one reduces a person to their body parts. But I’ll tell you what, when the love of your life dies, when your leg is blown off by an IED, when your child has been abused… “That fucking sucks!” might be the most loving thing someone can say to you.

There is a song by Billy Falcon that sums it up perfectly. It is called When and you can and should listen to it here:

Did you watch?

“Sometimes life is so fuckin’ unfair…” Yes it is Billy. Yes. It. Is.

* Let’s-be-face-it is a term coined by my husband in the jacuzzi one night during a deep discussion with friends. It was created when my husband couldn’t get out either “let’s face it” or “let’s be honest” so what came out was, “let’s-be-face-it”. And a phenomenon in our social circle was born. Feel free to use it with reckless abandon.

AWOL from the Christian Culture War.

“Let them vote ‘no’ to this ordinance, and ‘yes’ to the reign of the kingdom of God,” Pastor Charles Flowers said at the rally. He said this right before joining the crowd in booing Eric Alva, an openly gay Marine staff sergeant who became the first U.S. soldier injured in Iraq when he stepped on a landmine, spoke in favor of an ordinance that would protect people against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity at a San Antonio City Council meeting on Wednesday night.

Sigh. I find the culture war exhausting, distasteful and confusing. I am overcome with the cloud of war and have become convinced that the people who sit in the Christian War Room drawing up plans and maps are fighting for the wrong causes for all the wrong reasons.

So, as of today, I am going AWOL. I am out of here. I am trading in my faith fatigues for flowers and my Bible bombs for hugs.

In reality, I actually defected in my heart a long time ago, and have expressed my dissent and disagreement with the Christian Culture War Machine long and loud on many an occasion. The difference today is that I am declaring my independence and leaving the ranks.

I mean why do people who claim to follow Christ want to fight a war that Jesus never asked them to fight?

In Jesus’ day many people were looking for the Messiah to come in and politically and militarily take over and set up a physical kingdom right then. Many people were actually quite disappointed to find out that Jesus was not interested in removing Caesar or even the Sanhedrin from power. Almost as disappointed perhaps as some might be to learn that Jesus has no interest in impeaching President Obama.

Jesus was also faced with a woman caught in the act of adultery (an offence according to Jewish law that had very specific and dire consequences) he did not stand on the side of the powers that would have chosen to see this woman stoned to death. He stood on the side of the woman and extended radical grace to her. The men who accused her were testing Jesus to see if he would uphold the law. He did not. Do you think there would be the same level of disappointment  on the faces of people today when Jesus stands by the side of a woman who chooses abortion and extends radical grace to her?

When people were upset by the company Jesus kept and the parties he attended, when they called him a drunk and a sinner, he didn’t stop to please them. He didn’t cut them off either. He simply continued to be who he was and let people make their own decisions about him. I try to apply this principle on Facebook when people disagree with me. I have yet to sever ties with friends who disagree with me, I continue on being who I believe he calls me to be and allow people the freedom to choose to sever ties or stay friends. I always hope for the latter.

Jesus, though he was able to call down the power of heaven to free himself from the cross, instead chose to absorb the hate and give back forgiveness. I am afraid there were people there who were disappointed that he did not call down the fire and wipe out “the enemies”. Even people who had lived with him and had heard his teachings. How often are God‘s foot soldiers caught up in forcing people to conform to what they believe by passing laws which do nothing to change people’s hearts?

*side note: This isn’t just happening here at home. American Christians are also instrumental in influencing laws in other countries. A prime example of this can be found in Uganda’s Anti-gay Legislation, which you can read about here: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/04/world/africa/04uganda.html?_r=0

As far as I can tell, Jesus was/is on the side of the lepers, the women, the overlooked, the underestimated, the ones who drink too much, say too much, feel to much. He also was/is on the side of the privileged, the zealot, the religious, the goody-two-shoes and the ones who are just too tired to go on. He loves us all. His kingdom is a kingdom of peace. His law is a law of love. His righteousness is a free gift that is neither bought nor earned by any of us.

My allegiance is to this king and this kingdom. Not to some misguided war machine that is dedicated to fighting against the people they were sent to love. Too often they have used Jesus himself as a weapon and his words to wound instead of heal.

The very people Jesus intends to be the Red Cross to a dying and imprisoned world; who he sends to deliver the good news that their imprisonment is over and that God is not holding their sins against them; instead point to the bars and make sure the prisoners knew their captivity is their own damn fault.

Here is the commission I believe Jesus offers and I gladly accept: Ambassador of the God who came near. I will willing and joyfully serve as the Minister of Reconciliation for the one who took all the wrath that humans could dish out and said, I choose love.

Blown away by love.

ImageThe events of the week are enough to make your heart burst. I don’t have to tell you again what they are do I? No my lovelies. I will not do that here. Your heart knows. My heart knows.   It knows that there is just too damn little precious, swiftly passing time. If tragedy serves any purpose at all for the living it must be (in my estimation) the cruelest reminder to love. Love now. Love big. Love deep. Love radical. Extend grace where it is not deserved. Hug a stranger just because they look like they need one (ask first). Give to someone and expect nothing. Forgive. Forgive. And Forgive. Again. Even the one who has hurt you in the worst way. Extinguish your hatred. Hatred of the other, the different, the them. Who are “they anyway”? Aren’t they us? What is it that is keeping you from loving? If you are going to let those fucking bombs, that damn fire destroy something why not let it blow down the walls we have constructed to divide ourselves from each other? Why not love in the most radical way possible?

Me? I am a follower of Jesus. In my estimation the most radical lover, the most radical forgiver, the most genuine, least judgmental person who ever walked this earth.

Sidenote: People always say you should fear his judgement as he will be the judge on the last day. Personally, I think you should be super relieved and overjoyed that he will be your judge. If he is anything like he was on earth (which was the exact representation of who God is), he will find ways to forgive that you cannot even imagine. He will judge with mercy and compassion. This is the man who came to save all. Who died for all. He took the full weight of all the worst the world and humanity has to offer and he absorbed it and he looked it in the face and he pronounced love and forgiveness. BOOM!

If there is anything we must do in the face of inexplicable tragedy, inexplicable betrayal and inexplicable hate in order to be like God it is to absorb all the flying sharp pieces of ugliness and hate and judgement and to fire back love, explode forgiveness and blow people away with inexplicable grace and mercy. It is his way. It is the way of life. Let me tell you, this life is too damn short for me to hold on to the shit. Today I defiantly choose love. Won’t you join me?

Choice
Pieces of you
Free Hugs

 

The Bible trumps the law of the United States?

HI heard a conservative radio personality say this yesterday when I turned the dial to am to hear the traffic report. Wait? Whaaaaat???

Now if you are a Christian and I know many of you are, this may sound like a no brainer to you. “Of course the Bible supersedes the law of the United States! Or any country. And it should!”, you say. Well, I respectfully say, it absolutely should not. Before you go spray painting a big ol’ H for heretic on my chest, hear me out…

I do not worship the Bible. I worship the living God. The Bible is here to make known Jesus, and Jesus makes known the Father. The Holy Spirit convicts me of my sin and righteousness and teaches me (among many other things). When you tell me that the Bible supersedes the law of the United States, and that we should strive and work to make “what the Bible says” law. I start breaking out in hives. I mean, as my husband so eloquently asked this morning, “My question to you is, whose interpretation of “the bible and the Word of God” should “trump the laws of this country”? David Koresh’s? Pat Robertson’s? Mine? Yours? And how would this actually work? Congress passes a law, and then we appeal to the Supreme Court because we feel it conflicts with the “bible and the Word of God”? Please explain how you feel this is workable.” Or maybe would we need to set up some sort of Christian Sanhedrin or Sharia Court to hear such matters?

Are your sirens going off yet?

Believe me this isn’t just about gay marriage. It is about some citizens wanting other citizens to be forced to comply to something they feel is “biblical”. I have several problems with this.

  1. Since when do even all Christians agree on what is and is not “biblical” (see Rachel Held Evans take here: http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2012/11/17/my-take-the-danger-of-calling-behavior-biblical/ )
  2. When did Jesus ever say, “Hey guys, let’s force the Romans to do this stuff too! Let’s overthrow this government and put my face on the money!!” ???? Oh wait, he didn’t.
  3. When did Jesus ever force anyone to do his will? or even obey his commandments?
  4. In fact weren’t his harshest words reserved for religious leaders who shut the door in other people’s faces, practiced institutionalized hypocrisy and forced people to carry burdens they would never lift themselves?
  5. Wasn’t our country founded by people who didn’t want to be told what they had to believe or to be forced to worship in a certain way? Weren’t they fleeing places with nationalized religions?
  6. Theocracies are dangerous. My belief is that there will only be one perfect theocracy and Jesus will sit on that throne. No human is fit to rule in his place.
  7. In America we embrace the principles of liberty and justice FOR ALL regardless of religion or race or gender. I am fond of saying it is either liberty and justice for all or it is liberty and justice for none.
  8. There is no unless in the above statements, it doesn’t say…God loves you unless you are not a Christian or God loves you, unless you are gay. Additionally, our pledge of allegiance does not say liberty and justice for all (except gays or except blacks or accept women). It says, with liberty and justice FOR ALL.

After all my lovelies, people have used the Bible to justify all kinds of things I (and I am guessing most of you) find unacceptable today (Slavery, women as property and all manner of other abuses come to mind). The cause du jour for our time happens to be marriage equality. People are fond of saying, “I just believe what the Bible says. It is crystal clear” or they use phrases like “traditional marriage” . Let’s explore those statements through the following graphics:

tumblr_m80awqPk0Y1qkdvl3o1_1280

traditional-marriage

Many of my Christian friends think that “redefining marriage” will somehow tarnish marriage and make God angry. Listen, my marriage is holy because Kent and I choose to have God in the center of it. It is not made unholy by some other heterosexual couple being married who do not choose to have God at the center of theirs nor by any homosexual couple who do not. (or by others divorce or  infidelity or abuse etc. etc.) Incidentally, I neglected to mention a second ago, the Christian LGBT couples who choose to have God at the center of their relationships. A dizzying prospect? Here, sit down my lovelies, I will get you a cold glass of water.

A homosexual couple (or other “sinful” couple) marrying only affects one marriage, their own. This is the United States. We allow all types of people to get married for all types of reasons who commit all types of sins (I do not believe homosexuality is a sin incidentally), we recognize the marriages of all faith traditions, including non-christians! Gasp!! I just don’t see how or why free people do not understand this concept.

In Galations 5 it says, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Why, in God’s name, do people want to keep themselves or others under or put themselves or others back under a yoke of slavery when they have been set free? In the U.S we embrace the idea that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness“. Neither God (he gives us all free will) nor the U.S. Constitution gives you the right to deny these pursuits to your neighbor. You don’t have to agree with someone in the United States to afford them equal rights. Heck our country was built on that premise and that is why eventually this will prevail IMHO. As my Friend Matthew Paul Turner’s Facebook status read yesterday (and I like to think he is right), “Marriage equality will happen. It’s only a matter of time. This country has proven over and over again that it is indeed capable of changing courses, righting wrongs, reversing bad decisions, and siding with freedom, equality and democracy. We’re sometimes slow to get started. We’re sometimes blinded by our ignorance and fear. But we always eventually see the light. And once that light starts to crack through, you can’t keep it from shining. You can try. But you won’t prevail. Because in America, freedom always wins out in the end. It might take us a little longer to get to the finish line. But we will get there. And we will get there together.”

As far as “making God angry” I don’t believe that anymore but you can read all about that in my earlier post Why was God mad in 1927 or Was Jesus enough?

Good Stuff for Spring Break

beach-readsI know. I know. I have been M.I.A. for waaaay to long. I sadly have not had time for writing but I have had time for reading. Here are some I think are worth reading from the last few weeks to see you through the Spring Break holiday.

Enjoy my lovelies. I’ll see you on the other side.

Will Evangelicalism Last

For one thing “Truth” is not rational abstraction — a concept, doctrine, or idea you can write down — especially not one which you conveniently have right and everyone else conveniently has wrong. Truth-as-a-rational-abstraction constitutes a denial of the incarnation (and big chunks of the New Testament). Doctrines and theologies can point to the truth but they are not themselves the Truth. The Truth has been revealed to us in and through Jesus Christ. Truth is a person. Jesus is the Truth.

How Being a Pastor Changed My Thinking on Homosexuality

Several things clicked at once: These guys had burdens placed upon them by others(people like me) that had nothing to do with Jesus. Jesus said his interpretation of religious Law, his yoke, was easy and his burden light (11:38). His opponents, the religious leaders, accused him of abolishing the Law (5:17) and ignoring their pet scriptures about holiness and who was “in” and who was “out.” The fundamentalists of Jesus’ day were threatened by his message of an easy yoke, and they made his followers out to be “abolishers of the law.” In response, Jesus  commanded his followers to out-love, out-pray, and out-give his detractors (5:21-7:27).

Is Abolition Biblical?

I wanted to share these initial thoughts because I think it’s important to remind ourselves now and then that we’ve been wrong before, and that sometimes it’s not about the number of proof texts we can line up or about the most simplistic reading of the text, but rather some deep, intrinsic sense of right and wrong, some movement of the Spirit, that points us toward truth and to a better understanding of what Scripture really says. 

But That’s What the Bible Says

And this is the sad thing.  That we’d rather live with cognitive dissonance, believing that women are somehow equal but yet somehow lesser– or that they are to be restricted for no reason, but that God is still just– than to believe it’s possible we’re misreading our Bibles.

We’d rather restrict women and have the Bible be “clear” than admit that we just might be wrong.

How Sesame Street is Undermining Biblical Values

I know, you might think I’m overreacting, but the Bible is very clear on the role of bears in human relationships. They are meant to be voracious killing machines. I mean, the ONE COMMAND God gives specifically to bears is to “Arise and devour much flesh.” This attempt to anthropomorphize and humanize bears strikes at the heart of everything the gospel teaches about bears.

Feminism and Me: When I cannot cook but I am still a person

The first time I began to wonder if perhaps the evangelical narrative of gender roles I’d absorbed needed a little tweaking, I was 19 years old and finishing my first year of bible college, and I was in love with him. I sometimes like to think that he was in love with me too (a story for another day), but only to the extent that a heart as superficial as his could possibly be. One morning after a particularly intense cup of coffee the night before, I woke up to a novel in my inbox which basically boiled down to “I like you but you are unsuitable because you are initiatory in your relationships with men and also you cannot clean or cook.”

Jesus is my favorite feminist.

Not only in the message,
but in the messenger.

He chose her.

He commissioned her.

He gave her the privilege of delivering the very first Resurrection sermon.

To a room full of men.

CHASE AND THE ONION MAN

You and I, we have a lot of love to share. Maybe that man doesn’t have much. Maybe we offered him some today. People who behave badly still need love.

The Bible Isn’t The History You Think It Is

The situation not unlike a modern newspaper, which combines news with opinion, puzzles, comics, etc. The news can be accurate even if the comics are not. The same is true for the different parts of the Bible.

I stopped guarding my heart ten years ago.

All relationships invite our hearts to walk through disappointment and joy, the more intimate the relationship, the greater the capacity for both those things.

The Irony of Christian Celebrity

What if a desire to “make an impact” is just a form of grasping for immortality?

What if a quest for influence is actually another way of chasing fame?

What if efforts to “expand the Kingdom” are really monuments to our entrepreneurial skills?

What if, in the name of building platforms to proclaim the Gospel, we have elevated people into Christian celebrities?

What if we’ve added God to an already crowded house of idols—the idols of fame and success?

 

Mad Men (and Women) of Christianity


image

I know we are way behind but my husband and I just started watching Mad Men from the beginning on Netflix. Last night after watching the second episode, Kent turned to me and said, “Do you know why I like this show? Besides the great acting, writing and to-the-t period stuff?”
“No,” I said, “What?”
“This show is a perfect illustration of what people mean when they say they want to go back to the good old days. It’s how guys like Driscoll and Piper wish it was.”

I have been thinking about this ever since he said it last night.
At the time my mind immediately went to another blog written by Ben Ponder, editor-at-large for mediarostra.com which I read a while back. In it Mr. Ponder asserts that,

“Family” is the euphemistic code du jour for “Evangelical Christian.” “Focus on the Evangelical Christian” and the “American Evangelical Christian Association” didn’t have the same zing to them as their familiar twins. The watchword for these organizations is the preservation of “traditional family values,” which are, in a nutshell, white American family values from a period of 1939 to 1964. The family values constituency longs for a return to the virginal time before the Civil Rights movement, the Women’s Liberation Movement, the Vietnam War, the War on Poverty, the War on Drugs, John Lennon, and Rock Hudson made the world a more complicated place.
When I read the Bible, I get the distinct sense that Jesus wasn’t interested in saving the nuclear family from a windy onslaught of liberal opinions. I rather get the impression that he was concerned with diving headfirst into the unvarnished messiness of the human condition and saving us—as individuals, as families, as communities, as people—from our own unhinged self-absorption and festering lovelessness.

I also remembered a scene from Modern Family which I told you all about in The Will of the People. The scene takes place between Jay and Gloria.

“Jay: This weekend we’re going up to Pebble Beach. I’m gonna meet a bunch of guys I played high school football with. Man, those were the good old days.
Gloria: Yeah, unless you were a woman, black, Hispanic, or gay.
Jay: But if you were a straight white football player you couldn’t have a bad day.”

I am sure most of the folks nostalgic for a time gone by prefer to think of it like Leave It to Beaver where everything is clean and sanitized and the worst you have to worry about is Eddie Haskel and his mischievous ways. Mad Men is a more unvarnished look back that doesn’t gloss over the messiness of life. Honestly lovelies, neither is a perfect picture. They are both fiction. However we are talking about a real period of American life that is often pointed to by christians in general and evangelicals in particular, as a time when things were simpler, better and frankly closer to what God intended. After all, the marriages and families I see in the Bible look just like the Cunningham’s on Happy Days. 😉

Personally, I have no desire to go back to the way things were.

Christian Piatt wrote a great article about a year ago titled: GOP Nostalgia? Only Christian White Men were Better Off Back Then in which he said in part,

The fact is that, unless you’re a white, Christian, straight male, there’s little to look back to and say “yeah, I was better off back then.”… To call for a return to the good old days is, in some ways, a marginalization of those for whom history has meant progress. For the majority of Americans today, turning back the clock means losing ground, acceding power or opportunity and returning to a time of greater imbalance and division.”

Sadly, the church, whom I love seems to be stuck in a nostalgic longing that is really nothing more than a mirage. It offers the illusion of a cold drink of water but for many they find only a mouthful of sand and the scorching wind of shame. Heck even some of us raised in the church who know how beautiful and life-giving our communities truly can be, all to often have found our mouths filled with sand rather than the cool and refreshing living water.

Those who feel their privilege slipping away continue to grasp at an unhealthy nostalgia responsible for keeping the church on the wrong side of history way to often. It is what makes and has made people justify slavery and segregation or oppose women’s suffrage, a woman’s right to own property, interracial marriage, women in church leadership and gay marriage. (Even when people believe they are excluding people because of unrepentant sin I still call B.S. as we often hold the door open with a big smile for people who continue to stumble when it comes to gluttony, lust, gossip and lying while slamming the door in the face of homosexuals under the guise of “unrepentance”.) When people perceive their place of privilege is slipping away, rather than rejoicing that others will share in the freedom and forgiveness which they have enjoyed, often defend and set up barriers that push people further away from Jesus. Once again, someone else addresses this issue of priviledge much better than I can. I encourage you to read The Distress of the Priviledged by Doug Muder. He explains it like this:

As the culture evolves, people who benefitted from the old ways invariably see themselves as victims of change. The world used to fit them like a glove, but it no longer does. Increasingly, they find themselves in unfamiliar situations that feel unfair or even unsafe. Their concerns used to take center stage, but now they must compete with the formerly invisible concerns of others.

Then this morning as lady luck or Sarah Bessey would have it, I woke up to a post which exposes another facet of the mirage with a fierce and brave vulnerability. In Which I am Damaged Goods is a post way too many of us could have written. Sarah shares a time when she was served the sand of shame and judgement rather than the living water of love and forgiveness. She was taught that because she was a woman who had been sexually active she was damaged beyond repair and that she should be thankful if there was a christian man out there who would have her as a wife. While this may seem at first blush unrelated to a nostalgia for an earlier time, rest assured, it is. It is nostalgia for a time when a girl who gets pregnant (not the boy of course) would be sent away “to camp” for the summer or a divorcee would automatically be viewed as desperate, a home wrecker or “hot to trot”. “Oh Myyyyy,” as George Takai would say. With just a few google searches you can find church leader after church leader (including women) who will state unequivocally or simply subtly imply that women’s sexuality and/or women in general are something to be feared, suppressed and even demonized. Tertullian went as far as describing woman as the root of all evil. This is yet another mirage of sinking sand that brings death, shame and bondage rather than life, reconciliation and freedom. A current hotly debated question in the church is, “Why are young people leaving in droves?” Perhaps it is partly because they are tired of receiving a glass of sand when they are begging for water.

Please lovelies, let us remember this, Jesus came not to condemn (John 3:17) but to bring freedom and forgiveness.

This of course is just one example. The non-drinkers exclude the drinkers, the men exclude the women, the heterosexuals exclude the LGBT community, the races exclude each other, the hits just keep on coming and love loses –or so it seems. As a friend of mine (I can’t remember who, if it is you send me a note so I can give you credit) said in a Facebook post this week, many in the church upon arriving at the banquet to which they themselves were uninvited have set themselves up as doorkeepers, judging who is and who is not worthy to enter. Do they not see the irony? None of us were invited –yet we got to come in. And now here they sit callously turning away those whom Jesus would let in. Let that not be me. I say swing wide the doors; Come in. Taste and see that He is good.

As always my lovelies, I remain hopeful. Behold, Jesus is making all things new. He is NOT making all things the way they used to be. He is making all things NEW! Make no mistake, love will win. Look around. There are more and more people who shout and whisper and sing, “Come in! Come in! All are welcome. There is enough living water for us all.

LORD JESUS, May my judgements never push people away from you. Please show mercy to those who having already received grace for themselves would push away others whom you came for. Forgive them, for they know not what they do. AMEN.

——————————

As we were driving home I was reminded of the song Pieces of You by Jewel.  It drove home the point that we are all connected. When we exclude, shame and hurt each other we cut off our nose to spite our face. Any damage we do to each other, we do to ourselves.

She’s an ugly girl, does it make you want to kill her?
She’s an ugly girl, do you want to kick in her face?
She’s an ugly girl, she doesn’t pose a threat.
She’s an ugly girl, does she make you feel safe?
Ugly girl, ugly girl, do you hate her
‘Cause she’s pieces of you.

She’s a pretty girl, does she make you think nasty thoughts?
She’s a pretty girl, do you want to tie her down?
She’s a pretty girl, do you call her a bitch?
She’s a pretty girl, did she sleep with your whole town?
Pretty girl, pretty girl, do you hate her
‘Cause she’s pieces of you.

You say he’s a faggot, does it make you want to hurt him?
You say he’s a faggot, do you want to bash in his brain?
You say he’s a faggot, does he make you sick to our stomach?
You say he’s a faggot, are you afraid you’re just the same?
Faggot, Faggot, do you hate him
‘Cause he’s pieces of you?

You say he’s a Jew, does it mean that he’s tight?
You say he’s a Jew, do you want to hurt his kids tonight?
You say he’s a Jew, he’ll never wear that funny hat again.
You say he’s a Jew, as though being born were a sin.
Oh Jew, oh Jew, do you hate him
‘Cause he’s pieces of you.

Thanksgiving and a Commitment to Being Right

So, tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I am surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses:

  • My online friend who is mourning the recent loss of her beautiful little boy and continues to be Thankful in spite of her overwhelming pain.
  • One of my best friends who remembers his sister on this her first birthday since she passed and the looming anniversary of her death and still goes out of his way to make this weekend special for my son.
  • The two beautiful teenagers who have found their way to our home this holiday season who are hanging on to each other and choosing us to spend time with in a less than ideal situation.
  • My dear friend of 14 years who is struggling to find meaning in her life and faith right now but holds on and searches for it even though she’s not sure she wants to.
  • My husband, his Mom and all the Krabill’s as they miss Dad on this first Thanksgiving without him but still laugh and remember.

I find hope and encouragement in all these, their strength and perseverance is inspiring. It is my prayer that they will find peace this holiday season, that I can be a voice of hope and arms of love for them. They remind me to love extravagantly, and not take one day for granted; to live for the Kingdom that I can’t see but that is here and is coming where everything is made right. I want my life help bring this rightness everywhere I have influence.

Oh, and when I say “rightness” my lovelies please don’t misunderstand. When I say rightness I mean, love, justice, acceptance, peace, wholeness, beauty, joy, hope and every good thing, NOT the “rightness” that brings judgement, domination, violence and strife because that kind of “rightness” just ain’t right at all, is it?

Will you join me today my lovelies? Let’s make this Thanksgiving the year we are a commitment to be this kind of right, the right that lives in the mystery by faith NOT the right that has all the answers; the right that brings love NOT condemnation; the right that brings peace and NOT striving; the right that brings life NOT death; the right that brings freedom NOT bondage.

The Speech & The Blogger Who Loved It


They tell me in order to have a successful blog I need to focus on a particular genre or theme, i.e. mommy blog, politics, feminism, current events, religion, entertainment.

*sigh*

If that is the case my lovelies, I guess this blog will never be wildly successful.

Side notes: 1) If you had told me last December when I started this thing that I would have over 30,000 page views by the end of November I would have been shocked and I might have laughed in your face so for me numbers wise, totally winning.  2) Writing this blog has been the catalyst for so much amazingness in my life, that for me, on a strictly personal level it is a huge, wild, cacophony of success.

Now that my tee up is out of the way, I am here to tell you this blog is NEVER going to have a single focus and if that is what is necessary for “blog success” in terms of rankings and book deals and whatever, I am totally okay with that. I for one am just thrilled to be here, on the interwebs talking to you fine people and sharing my thoughts such as they are in all their glory and messiness and
in-processness (I am in a making up words mood this morning. You have been warned. I think it is the lack of sleep. Or maybe it is my giddiness afterglow from the speech).

Ahhhh, there we are! The speech! That is what I am writing about today. Not so much the election itself (as that is all over but the shouting) as the deliciousness that was Obama’s acceptance speech. Here we go…

OBAMA:

That’s why we do this. That’s what politics can be. That’s why elections matter. It’s not small, it’s big. It’s important. Democracy in a nation of 300 million can be noisy and messy and complicated. We have our own opinions. Each of us has deeply held beliefs. And when we go through tough times, when we make big decisions as a country, it necessarily stirs passions, stirs up controversy.

That won’t change after tonight, and it shouldn’t. These arguments we have are a mark of our liberty. We can never forget that as we speak people in distant nations are risking their lives right now just for a chance to argue about the issues that matter, the chance to cast their ballots like we did today.

ME:  A friend of mine posted today that “a nation divided against itself cannot stand.” My response to him/her was this quote from the President’s speech along with these words. “Nations are pretty much always divided against themselves. Part of what makes America great is the way in which we treat those whom we disagree with.” We are passionate, we debate and yes (as we have seen recently) we argue. But we do so without threat of imprisonment or retaliation from the opposition. We disagree long and loud and on Facebook and we don’t think twice about it. Do you even realize how amazing that is. Think about that the next time you read a political rant and stop and be thankful, especially if you are a woman. As you know, even though we hold up half the sky, there are still far too many places where our voices are muted, discounted or silenced altogether.

OBAMA:

We believe in a generous America, in a compassionate America, in a tolerant America, open to the dreams of an immigrant’s daughter who studies in our schools and pledges to our flag. To the young boy on the south side of Chicago who sees a life beyond the nearest street corner. To the furniture worker’s child in North Carolina who wants to become a doctor or a scientist, an engineer or an entrepreneur, a diplomat or even a president — that’s the future we hope for. That’s the vision we share. That’s where we need to go — forward. That’s where we need to go.

ME: Please tell me you believe in a generous and compassionate America. I do and whether you agree with the President’s policies or not, please stop saying he doesn’t want the same things you do for these children. He is not a monster. He is a father and a husband and an American and a human being.

OBAMA:

But that doesn’t mean your work is done. The role of citizen in our democracy does not end with your vote. America’s never been about what can be done for us. It’s about what can be done by us together through the hard and frustrating, but necessary work of self-government. That’s the principle we were founded on.

ME: I love that! It isn’t about what can be done for us but what can be done by us when we work together! Government of the people, by the people and for the people. As the three musketeers said, “all for one and one for all.” There is a song called Brother’s Keeper by the late great Rich Mullins that says in part:

My friends ain’t the way I wish they were
They are just the way they are
And I will be my brother’s keeper
Not the one who judges him
I won’t despise him for his weakness
I won’t regard him for his strength
I won’t take away his freedom
I will help him learn to stand
And I will ~ I will be my brother’s keeper.

OBAMA:

This country has more wealth than any nation, but that’s not what makes us rich. We have the most powerful military in history, but that’s not what makes us strong. Our university, our culture are all the envy of the world, but that’s not what keeps the world coming to our shores.

What makes America exceptional are the bonds that hold together the most diverse nation on earth. The belief that our destiny is shared; that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations. The freedom which so many Americans have fought for and died for come with responsibilities as well as rights. And among those are love and charity and duty and patriotism. That’s what makes America great.

ME: I wholeheartedly agree. What is amazing about us isn’t just that we are the most diverse nation in the history of the world but it is the fact that in spite of that diversity, in spite of all that divides us we understand that we share one dream. A dream of freedom and equality and justice for ALL regardless of their differences. We in the United States realize that in order for me to have lasting freedom, I must also defend your freedom to worship differently, choose differently and live differently than I do.
At our house we watch Once Upon A Time, and on that show Rumpelstiltskin is fond of saying, “Remember deary, magic comes with a price!” I would change that to say, “Remember lovelies, freedom comes with a price!” The price is being our brother and our sister’s keeper through love, charity, duty and patriotism.

OBAMA:

I’ve seen it on the shores of New Jersey and New York, where leaders from every party and level of government have swept aside their differences to help a community rebuild from the wreckage of a terrible storm. And I saw just the other day, in Mentor, Ohio, where a father told the story of his 8-year-old daughter, whose long battle with leukemia nearly cost their family everything had it not been for health care reform passing just a few months before the insurance company was about to stop paying for her care.

I had an opportunity to not just talk to the father, but meet this incredible daughter of his. And when he spoke to the crowd listening to that father’s story, every parent in that room had tears in their eyes, because we knew that little girl could be our own. And I know that every American wants her future to be just as bright. That’s who we are. That’s the country I’m so proud to lead as your president.

ME: If we can’t agree that this girl should be able to receive care without her family losing everything they have then I am shocked and saddened.

OBAMA:

And tonight, despite all the hardship we’ve been through, despite all the frustrations of Washington, I’ve never been more hopeful about our future. I have never been more hopeful about America. And I ask you to sustain that hope. I’m not talking about blind optimism, the kind of hope that just ignores the enormity of the tasks ahead or the roadblocks that stand in our path. I’m not talking about the wishful idealism that allows us to just sit on the sidelines or shirk from a fight.

I have always believed that hope is that stubborn thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us so long as we have the courage to keep reaching, to keep working, to keep fighting.

ME: Yes.Yes.Yes. And for me, hope has a name and His name is Jesus. He taught us to pray that God’s will would be done on earth as it is in heaven and he invited us to be a part of bringing his Kingdom; Not by becoming a theocracy, or through military power, but by loving our neighbors!

OBAMA:

America, I believe we can build on the progress we’ve made and continue to fight for new jobs and new opportunity and new security for the middle class. I believe we can keep the promise of our founders, the idea that if you’re willing to work hard, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from or what you look like or where you love. It doesn’t matter whether you’re black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, able, disabled, gay or straight, you can make it here in America if you’re willing to try.

I believe we can seize this future together because we are not as divided as our politics suggests. We’re not as cynical as the pundits believe. We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions, and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are and forever will be the United States of America.

ME: It is either liberty and justice for all or it is liberty and justice for none. We should reject the lines that divide us and reject those who would through fear and hate try to convince you that it is us vs them, men vs women, rich vs poor, gay vs straight, black vs white. Reject the scripts that tell you that you are somehow superior to your neighbor. You are not. You are, just as your neighbor i,s an image bearer of God, and he or she is just as valuable,and just as loved.

OBAMA:

I believe we can seize this future together because we are not as divided as our politics suggests. We’re not as cynical as the pundits believe. We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions, and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are and forever will be the United States of America.And together with your help and God’s grace we will continue our journey forward and remind the world just why it is that we live in the greatest nation on Earth.

Thank you, America. God bless you. God bless these United States.

ME: I believe that. I believe we are more than the sum of our individual ambitions. I believe that when crisis hits and our country is attacked. I believe it when the storms hit and I see people (even Governors and Presidents) drop everything to help their neighbors. I believe it when I host a dinner party and all my friends come (black and white and Hispanic and Asian and Native American, young and old, rich and poor, able and disabled, gay and straight) and bring food for the food bank and have a totally out of control gift exchange. We wish each other happy holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah and safe and prosperous new years all around. I believe it every day in the kindness of strangers who don’t stop first to ask my party affiliation before the lend a helping hand. Don’t get me wrong. It bothers me that my kids had to talk most of the other kids at their Christian school off the ledge yesterday because they were freaked out by the election results. It bothers me when people call George W. Bush evil. Please lovelies, these are just men. We elect them to do a job. They each try to do it to the best of their ability in accordance with their values, beliefs and consciences to make the country they love a better one. Do they make mistakes? Do you? Can you imagine having that job? “Sir, we need to know what you want to do. The seals are waiting sir, should they go in or stand down? Sir? We need to know right now!”  Oh my gosh, I don’t even like to make the call on where to have dinner when I am put under pressure. Grace please. Prayers please. Peace, please.

On a related issue, can we please stop saying President Obama isn’t a Christian. He is one. He professes Christ. He believes in the tenets of the faith. God sees hearts, I do not and neither do you. It says God will judge. Neither you nor I will be making those calls (thank God). For now perhaps we who call ourselves followers of Jesus should pray for him and trust that he knows we cannot accomplish any of the things he set out in his speech without God’s grace.

Me: So, God bless you my lovelies and God bless these United States.

Oh, by the way, they also tell me I have to keep it short. Anyone who knows me knows there is probably not much hope of that.
michelle krabill

http://www.mlkcreative.com

 

Lists, Ambition and One Last Thing

Much has been made in the last week while I was away about a list of the Top 200 Church Bloggers posted by Kent Shaffer. There is also a cover story done by Christianity Today about 50 Women to Watch coming to news stands near you.

And while I do care that Mr Shaffer’s list was 93% white males, I do not care that word of a woman was no where to be found. I honestly don’t care about ever making his list. I also don’t care if Christianity today decides I belong on their list of women to watch even if I do love me some Rachel Held Evans. I appreciate them attempting to celebrate female followers of Jesus who they feel are making an impact, but I personally don’t care if I ever meet the criteria to make their list. For me having a women’s list that is separate from the men’s list is just more of the “our church lets women lead” mentality that Kathy Escobar wrote about recently. This may lead you to ask what I would do if I were ever to make a list such as this one. One way to react is the way Rachel Held Evans did this week in her post Is Ambition a Sin? She explained:

I weighed in a few times myself, thinking that, as one of just three women who made it to the Top 100, no one could accuse me of sour grapes. I even offered some tips regarding search engine optimization, design, posting schedule, and so on, hoping they might help some women whose content is great, but whose blogs might be blipping just under the radar. If we don’t like the list, I reasoned, let’s work to change it!

I agree on the one hand, working to change it is all well and good but in the end there is no doubt this is Mr. Shaffer’s list and he is free to choose whomever he wishes to be on it and it is no skin off my nose if he only decided to include baptists or pastors or  Chevy owners. I also understand, as he does, that his selection “approach is subjective and consequently flawed.”

So the question remains my lovelies, why don’t I care about making a “top Christian _______” list? The reason I don’t care has nothing to do with lack of ambition or feeling that it is unladylike to self-promote. On the contrary, I want to be an influential blogger period: Christian or not. I want to be the Mumford and Sons of blogging. I want my blog to be recognized because it is making the world a better and more beautiful place. I want it to be widely read because it connects on a deep level and maybe just maybe it reflects a spark of the divine and makes people long for more of that which calls us all to be better. This has never been about being influential with church people for me. This is about being influential with people. I believe with all my heart that God has given me words to speak that are worth hearing or I wouldn’t be here. This blog is and has always been about love; loving God and loving my neighbor; speaking out for freedom for the oppressed, and asking how we can see God’s kingdom come here and now in every corner of life. I want that message to go out to as many as humanly possible. And so…I write, because I have to, because I must, because I believe He wants me to or He wouldn’t have given me this heart, these words or this fracking awesome technology that allows us all to be more connected than ever.

Rachel Held Evans asked her readership how they felt about ambition yesterday and I am glad she asked. In Philippians 2 it says that we should “do nothing out of rivalry (some versions say selfish ambition) or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” It does not say, “Do nothing out of ambition,” but rather selfish ambition. That phrase implies that there is also unselfish ambition. Google defines ambition as:

am·bi·tion/amˈbiSHən/

Noun:
  1. A strong desire to do or to achieve something, typically requiring determination and hard work.
  2. Desire and determination to achieve success.

I don’t know about you my lovelies, but that sounds like a good thing to me. As far as I can tell, I am supposed to love and reconcile as many as I can; I am attempting to achieve that through my writing (among many other avenues); Therefore, I continue to be determined and work hard to do what it takes to succeed, including promotion and branding to ensure that my blog is seen by as many people as possible. Make no mistake, no list can determine the value of what I do here on the blogosphere any more than being named employee of the month or father of the year makes it so. The value of Word of a Woman can only be determined by whether it stirs in you, my lovelies the desire to love God, to love your neighbor, to use your life, your talent and all you are to see the world made a better place.

One last thing…

Mr. Shaffer did publish a response to the female bloggers who objected about not being included called, Open Letter to Christian Women Blogs in which he attempted to explain the list at least in regards to the exclusion of more women’s blogs. Unfortunately, in my opinion he missed the point in his response post. I could go into all the details but that would be missing the point of my own post. 😉 I will just let you read it for yourselves and make your own decisions. I will however make one point. In her response post on the Her.meneutics site, Laura Ortberg Turner relays this discussion:

In an e-mail exchange with Shaffer, a Christianity Today editor inquired as to why Her.meneutics was not on the list. He responded in a way that is indicative of a false dichotomy between “church” and “ministry” within our larger church culture:

“It hasn’t been included because we’ve subjectively decided it doesn’t focus on ministry topics frequently enough. The value in our list (although flawed) is its relatively narrow scope of topical focus. You write good posts, but they tend to be focused more on sex, relationships, adoption, politics, etc. than they are on topics rooted in ministry.”

Mr. Shaffer, this is where you completely lose me. You said that Her.meneutics was not included because their posts “tend to be focused more on sex, relationships, adoption, politics, etc. rather “than they are on topics rooted in ministry.” Really? How are these not topics rooted in ministry? I know no human, male or female, who is not personally invested in relationships, sex, adoption and/or politics. I personally reject the notion that there are ministry and non ministry topics; that posts (or anything else) can be pigeonholed into exclusively secular or uniquely sacred. I would even go so far as to say that you cannot have a blog as a follower of Christ that isn’t about a ministry topic.

In the end however you view the lists, they are subject to the list makers and the criteria they set. So why worry about whether or not I am deemed worthy by Mr. Shaffer or Christianity Today or any other person or group of making their list? Seeing my blog on a list is not my ambition. Love and Liberty and Reconciliation…now those, those are my ambitions. If I happen to end up on some “top whatever list” some day, I will most likely file it away with my Miss Congeniality award from high school, my ADDY award and all my other atta’ girls. They’re nice and all, but in the end, they don’t mean much. What survives in the end isn’t the lists or the accolades but the love and I want to be known for as much of that as possible.