Scales on heart, mind, soul

keep the healing at arms length

oh, to be softened

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tangled christmas lights

I feel like tangled Christmas lights.

Tied in knots of schedules, meetings, to-do lists,

Tangled knots of expectations and disappointments.

Tangled knots of broken hearts and injustices.

Tied in the knots of messy relationships.

I feel like tangled Christmas lights.

But even tangled up in knots, when you plug in the clump of Christmas lights–they still light up.

I may be a tangled mess, but when I am connected to God, I can still shine.

My Lord,

Do you remember the promise you made in John 14:27: “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid”?

What kind of peace of mind and heart is it when your heart continues to be broken?

The more I seek you, the more I study your life and teachings….the more my heart breaks. What kind of peace is that?

My heart breaks for those being oppressed and for those who are oppressing, those who are abused and those who are abusing. My heart breaks for those who do not realize they are being abused or oppressed and for the oppressors and abusers who are unwilling to reflect on the poison eating at their soul.

My heart breaks at the way the poison has eaten away at my soul and still leaves me broken.

And this is peace of mind and heart?

There was a time when my faith stood on the right doctrine. I knew the right words, the right doctrines, the right everything. I knew what ailed everyone else. I had the equation down.

But as I have drawn closer to you, you have taken that comfort from me. I still believe the doctrine. But that doctrine in light of who you are has lead to a new found brokenness. I was broken before–but I was unaware of it. Now I willingly let you break my heart.

And I must ask again, what kind of peace breaks my heart?

images dove

This past election cycle, I chose not to vote and found freedom. I removed myself from the drama of politics. I didn’t have a dog in the fight.

Stepping back from the whole making a decision on who to vote for and planting my flag, I found I could see all the manipulative tactics the politicians from both sides use. My eyes opened to how much fear plays a part in our politics. The Republicans seemed to have honed that skill. Like a world renown orchestra playing a requiem, the Republicans filled our airwaves with the music of fear–if ISIS didn’t kill us, Ebola was going to do us in. The Democrats were much less skilled in making fearful music, they were clumsy about it. What everyone needed to fear according to the Democrats were the Republicans. Each politician seems to fill our world with a sense of fear. So much for the “home of the brave,” America sounded like the home of the agoraphobics.

But I was able to free myself from that. And my voice was heard in an odd way, as the President said, those who chose not to vote, he heard us as well. I wonder if the tactics of the campaigns would change if we all stopped being motivated by fear.

I also found myself free from the messianic complex of each political party. The Christian Right are convinced that if democrats and liberals are elected God’s judgment will come. And so the Republicans and Tea Partiers are the hope for salvation. Christian leftists are convinced that if we do not care for the poor, the judgment of God will come.

God’s Kingdom will come but not through the government of the USA or through our using the tactics of USAmerican politics. The politics of either party will not keep God’s Kingdom from coming.

I do not know if I will choose not to vote next year. If I do vote, it will be through very different eyes.

And so now some 80 pastors and theologians have stated its time the UM realizes the progressives and conservatives cannot find common ground so its time to find an amicable parting of ways.

Tonight, I sat in the small contemporary service of the church I serve. My church is a moderate church. There are those on both sides of the homosexual issue. My church is a uniting between two churches. There are still people who lament the decision to go with chairs rather than pews. But as I worshipped tonight I watched how these dear, dear saints with differing theologies in areas of belief and different traditions which are sacred to them let those differences dissolve and passionately worshipped Jesus. And during the week they passionately serve the poor, study Scripture, seek to love God and love people–despite some major disagreements.

What the hell is wrong with our denomination?

A rabbi told me she experiences the inspiration of Scripture not in the words written on the page but in the process of discovering God in the story. Something about that resonates with me–I feel the vibration in my soul.

The faith of my past told me the inspiration was in the words. The Bible says it, believe it, that settles it. The Bible was the solid ground, the foundation of faith. Reality has spoken differently to me. Instead of a dictated faith, Scripture tells a story and invites me to enter the narrative. And when I think I have a handle on the message, Scripture seems to beckon me to let down my nets on the other side of the boat. 

It would be so much easier if this all was dictated to us. But God spoke in stories not a list of doctrines–for they can become graven images to us. God spoke in stories because that is how we live our lives. 

Lately it seems each week brings another article or blog about the United Methodist Church’s struggle with the issue of homosexuality. With Annual Conference season upon us, the discussion rises to a new level. Some have declared it is time for the UMC to simply divide over the issue. In response to the talk of schisms, others are calling for unity. I would love to add my voice to the cry for unity as well. But even the cry for unity is just adding to the cacophony if we don’t acknowledge what stands in the way of unity.

1. Unity cannot happen when we have our bags packed for an easy exit. As long as anyone is calling for schism, unity is a pipe dream.

2. Unity cannot happen when we sow seeds of doubt. The painting of the ones we disagree with as anything less than disciples of Christ seeking to love God and love people as best as they can sows doubt. The painting of those we disagree with as people who do not accept the whole counsel of God’s Word or people who just ignore the parts they don’t like, sows seeds of doubt. Until we acknowledge that people on all sides of this issue are seeking to love God and love people, to hold Scripture to the highest regard and be true to Scripture, reason, tradition and experience, and that we all see things dimly in this life, we sow seeds of doubt. Unity cannot be realized when we dismiss those we disagree with as being less committed, less spiritual, less led by the Spirit than we. Can we really discuss this issue and walk united together as we struggle when we are judged for believing as we do? It seems we cannot be ourselves. Unity is not possible.

3. Unity cannot happen while we keep shooting at each other. In the past several years, charges have been brought up against pastors for denying membership to church based on homosexuality, against pastors who have performed same sex weddings, and against bishops for not bringing pastors up on charges. For those who agree with the discipline, its easy to call for unity. Its a call for everyone to adhere to the discipline and keep everything status quo. For those whose interpretation of Scripture conflicts with the Discipline’s mandate, well its a little harder. Can we really discuss this issue and work through this issue–when we cannot live out our convictions or be who we are without threat of charges being brought up? Can there be a cease fire between all sides?  

I have no plans to walk away from the UMC no matter how votes go in our conferences. But a cry for unity seems to be hollow if we continue to talk schism, continue to dismiss and degrade the other and continue to bring up each other on charges.

 

 

I wish I could bottle resurrection.

The moment Mary Magdelene realized Jesus was alive again!

The moment in Church when the air is electrified by the Divine Presenece!

The moment when the past loses its grip on me and I am free to be all that I am, fully loved and fully loving.

I wish I could bottle resurrection

because the day after Easter always comes.

Because death always creeps back into our vocabulary.

Because a man married for over 60 years still has to make the hard decision: his wife needs more help than he can give her and she can no longer live in his home.

I wish I could bottle resurrection so in the face of the mundane and in the face of desperate heart break, I could open it up and feel the cool breeze of new life.          

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In the corner of my mind..

there’s a pile

In the corner of my mind there’s a pile of boxes

In the corner of my mind there’s a pile of boxes collecting and building.

Boxes full of regrets, negative thoughts, failures, doubts, other people’s opinions and disappointments building up higher and higher. 

A pile of boxes full of terrifying thoughts tipping, toppling, tormenting as they cascade all over the floor of my mind.

A voice inside me cries “burn them all.”

Another wants to sort them.

And still another sits in the corner, knees to her chin. 

In the corner of my mind there is a pile of boxes.

This past week, World Vision made a major, controversial decision on hiring homosexuals and then reversed it. I have watched and participated in a lot of discussion stirred up by these events. I have read the blogs of conservatives and progressives. I have read the twitter and Facebook posts of both. And I noticed a huge difference–not the obvious difference centered on what they believe about homosexuals but a bigger difference—the reaction of both groups. 

While the reaction to the decision and reversal was not clean cut, there was a majority response from both sides. The conservatives overall called everyone to boycott and pull support of World Vision. From John Piper to Franklin Graham to Russell Moore to average Christians, the cry was “farewell to World Vision.” According to World Vision the numbers were in the thousands who dropped sponsorship–less than 5000 but still in the thousands. Now there were many who said they would keep supporting the child they sponsored because they couldn’t see letting that relationship fall to this social/cultural/doctrinal debate. But overwhelmingly, the cry was to cease supporting World Vision.

One of the posts that floored me actually stated that if this is between protecting or defaming God’s Word, let the children starve if our Lord is going to be defamed. That sounds really harsh. But that pretty much was the actions of the Conservative Evangelicals.

Then the reversal happened. And I watched as the progressive bloggers like Matthew Paul Turner, Rachel Held Evans and others who felt betrayed by the reversal asked and even begged those who read their posts to continue to support World Vision anyways. There was an overwhelming cry to see the needs of the children are bigger than this disagreement.

I have heard conservatives say the difference is because the progressives don’t stand for anything. But I think that dismisses the progressives too easily. From what I read, they have struggled and wrestled with Scripture sometimes more than the conservative bloggers I have read.

The Church has never been 100% united on every doctrine or course of action. Paul and Peter had their differences. The early church had to wrestle with the issue of circumcision for Gentile Christians and the eating of food offered to idols. There were heated confrontations between early church fathers over the deity of Jesus and whether the Spirit flows from the Father and the Son or just the Father. There were debates among the Church over unleaven bread or leaven bread to be used in Communion. And to this day we do not agree on what happens at the Table of the Lord–the very place unity is exemplified and taught. Christians supported slavery using Scripture. We have a long history of disagreeing. And there have been some shining examples of “in essentials unity, in non essentials liberty, in all things charity.” So the disagreement this week is nothing new. But our reaction to the decision and reversal is very telling.

So here is my dilemma–

Jesus healed on the Sabbath and was condemned by the Pharisees. They would rather allow a person to suffer than to even look like there was a Law of God broken.  And Jesus told them the Sabbath was made for man not man made for the Sabbath. He accused the pharisees of loving the letter of the law rather than the Spirit. Jesus was not disregarding the Law or dismissing it. He was holding to God’s law while loving a human being. Because the law and the doctrines and principles and traditions were never meant to keep people down and suffering.
Isaiah 1 and Amos 5 even state that God despises our religion when people are left in need. James tells us that true religion always cares for the poor. And Jesus said in Matthew 25, as you do to the least of these you have done to me. I really have a hard time telling Jesus I cannot feed him because I disagree with a charity over a doctrinal issue.
It seems the progressive get this about Jesus. There is a way for their voice to speak for the doctrine and truth as they know it without putting needy children in jeopardy.

I was brought up in the conservative evangelical church. I know it holds to doctrine really well. But I question what is most important to you? Please tell me. I know why you believe and hold to the doctrines so fiercely. But as you hold to those doctrines so fiercely, I am not hearing the love of God for humanity in your words or actions. I guess I am looking for a reason not to walk away completely from the conservative evangelical church.