Huddle

My ex tried to warn me. When I told her I found a church back in 2011, she said it was just a club. I thought to myself, “What’s wrong with being part of a club of people that are headed in the same direction as I am?” Well, it’s fine when you are accepted, but it turns really ugly when they reject you.

I say ‘they’ knowing full well at times that I probably treated others the same way that I am being treated now. Maybe Justin Timberlake’s lyrics are wisdom: what goes around comes back around. Or more to what my readers may know: judgement, so to speak, begins in the house of the Lord. We, those who have at times incorrectly esteemed ourselves to be quite elite, forget that to the measure we judge others is the standard by which we also setup our own medicine.

And so I sit here after being rejected by those still in the club. They tell me that what I now believe is from the devil. They tell me that I am with the anti-Christ, even though the whole crux of my hope is the incarnation of Jesus and I can’t shut up about what that means to me.

They tell me that I am a heretic and they are going to warn others about me. Which in a funny ironic way is “free press” that might in the long run reach more people and have more of an impact than would be possible without them. Takes a whole new meaning to the concepts of “no bad press” and God working all things for good. They are spreading the good news without even intending to or realizing it. Their prayers being answered contrary to their expectations and without their awareness. Evidence that we are all participating with Holy Spirit, even and maybe more so in our weakness. All glory to God.

They tell me that I don’t care about the truth anymore and so they distance themselves from me. Which is ironic as their mission is apparently to bring people to truth. Yet in their own words and actions, they leave those they have identified as lost. I am thankful Jesus doesn’t do the abandonment I experience from some of those that sing His name every Sunday.

Again, I say this knowing I’ve done the same in the past. All well-meaning actions motivated by verses in the Bible that I thought justified and even commanded my actions. So I get it. In a way I am now quite blessed to have the perspective of both sides. Hopefully my words will bring healing to all. To those that are probably ignorant to how they are hurting others. And to those that are being hurt.

But as this journey continues, I am encountering a phenomenon that I did not anticipate: I am learning how to be a real person and live a real life. Grieving the multiple decades that I have formerly lived pretty much in a cult mentality. More generously referred to by those in the club as a “holy huddle”.

It is literally like I am learning to be a human again. Thinking all along that I was light years ahead and now conversely feeling so far behind. Like an alien that has landed on a new planet. Worse than being a child because I have to unlearn all the old junk in addition to figuring out the new ways. A huge serving of humble pie. More prayers being answered in unexpected ways.

The beauty being those teaching me by example are completely unaware of how much they are challenging me in the best ways. People those in the club deem unworthy. Children of God even if they have sex with the wrong people, imbibe the wrong substances, and don’t look the part. Waiving the wrong flags but expressing more love. In actions, where it counts most.

This stretches every part of the former me still hiding out deep within my psyche. All my boxes are being burst open. For the better I’m sure. But it’s taking time for me to get my bearings. To navigate this new course. Or rather to be led. To be held, quite literally. Not on the performance treadmill anymore. Not trying to balance the world on my shoulders while spinning all the so-called “spiritual” plates.

Finding my safety not in deciding who is in and who is out. But rather experiencing a firm foundation in the absolute security of my identity as a beloved child of God in Christ. Perfect love casting out fear after fear that silos me when I attempt to self-protect. Some of which include the fears of failure, not having the correct answers, not having all the needed information, not having enough time, and never experiencing relief or justice during my time on this planet.

Increasingly ensured that God is bigger than me. Bigger than us. Bigger than our failures and our pain. Bigger than our minds can know. Better than our hearts can imagine.

His love the only strength that keeps me from shutting down in the face of such relentless suffering and sadness that is endlessly experienced and broadcasted. His love in those moments where He shows me He sees me. His love surprises me, catches me completely off guard when expressed even sometimes most grandly through the seemingly selfless gestures and generosity of relative strangers outside of the religious clubs.

And as tempting as it is to swing the pendulum in the extreme opposite direction, happiness is found in releasing everyone from my expectations. Relishing and celebrating those moments of connection where our actions align beautifully with who God created us to be. Yet relying only on Him. Understanding all are human; still broken at their best. Giving each other permission to be in process. While not excusing, enabling, condoning, or allowing behaviors that should not be. And in that regard, realizing the dance of defining every minutia is way above our pay grade. We do our best and trust God with the rest.

A person I am especially fond of advised me to mine for diamonds. Or in the words of another human I appreciate, eat the meat and spit out the bones. That is what is helping me a lot as I learn what this new life of relationship looks like. Celebrating the good keeps my heart and hands open. Enjoying people when they stay and genuinely giving them grace when they go. Knowing whatever happens here in this life is only the beginning of the story.

Views

Looking at the mountain is not the same thing as being on the mountain. The views are completely different. So is our experience when we make a religion out of spending all our time inspecting the invitation to relationship with God. We substitute looking the part for real healing. And yet God is with you now wherever you are. Ask Him. Ask Jesus to reveal God to you.

I’m Here

I was led through an exercise where I was asked to think of a place where I would like to meet Jesus. Any place. If I could decide to meet Him anywhere. Then to picture me and Jesus in that place.

What does the place look like? Smell like? Feel like? Etc?

What does Jesus look like? Is He touching me? If so, what does that touch look like? Feel like?

Does Jesus say anything to me? What does He say? And finally, what are His eyes saying?

I don’t want to share the rest of the details, but for me, Jesus said He enjoys me and it’s ok to be silent.

It’s ok to be me and not have anything to say. I can stop all my trying to force connections. With Him and others. Give space. Trust Him. Stop trying to carry the whole world on my shoulders sometimes.

Redeeming Wrath

Trying to manipulate God is religion. Or as I prefer to call it, witchcraft. It is no different than the idea of witches sitting around a boiling pot with a book of “spells”. The key is that you think there is a formula where if you do xyz then God’s switch/button is pushed to automatically do abc. And if He doesn’t do what you thought was His side of the deal, then you must have gotten the formula wrong. That is religion and witchcraft. That is not relationship. Even if your book of “spells” is the Bible. Even if your formula consists of doing things that are so-called “good” when done on their own without any agenda. This is subconscious stuff we’re talking about. As you mature, you grow away from blatant prayers like, “God, if you do abc then I’ll do xyz.” But even if you know not to explicitly say it, your heart might be at the wheel still making decisions to that effect.

Relationship is entirely different. Relationship is not about control and manipulation. Which is why it is so difficult to accept. Total respect for the other person. Total freedom. To walk away or stay. I choose to love you even at your worst. Because of who I AM. Letting the other person go completely. Yet not enabling. Not consenting, not condoning. My releasing you is not me giving you permission to treat me however you want. To do to me whatever you want. I still have the ability and responsibility to exercise my power to choose how much I expose myself to your behavior. This is relationship.

Where you are invited to participate. Where your choices and decisions matter. But not in terms of performance. Where you as an individual matter. But not in terms of conforming as if we were created with our highest good being religious robots or so-called “spiritual” yes-men. To reduce it down to that is an insult to the beauty of who we are and who God is. Not an insult in terms of an affront to ego. But insult as in a gross miscalculation, a severe understatement.

Real love does you no favors by allowing you to continue on in stinking thinking. Even when it means I get something out of the deal, out of your wrong thinking. Real love doesn’t use you like that. Real love, even though it wants you close, will endure the pain of pushing you away when it is better for your ultimate and highest health and healing. It looks like punishment, but nothing could be farther from the truth. I AM passionately furious FOR YOU. Not against you. I will not stop and settle for using you as if ego was everything or anything. You mean too much. I want more for you than you want for yourself. That is real love.

I long for your embrace. I wait day in and day out for your return on the horizon. Even a word. A glimpse of hope. I would search under every rock and behind every tree if I knew it was better for you. But you’ve chosen a different path. One you have to get to the end of on your own. Not because I want it that way. But because you insist. You don’t see yet. You don’t trust because you don’t know that you are safe and that you are loved. Dearly. Deeply.

I Wonder

One of the top responses I receive when I tell people that I believe every human will be with Jesus after this time on this earth, is that they think that means I am telling people that it doesn’t matter what a person does in their lifetime. That’s a tricky statement. I’ve learned to ask people to be more specific when they throw statements like that out at me. Otherwise my answer could have nothing to do with their real question.

But there are two different ways to answer that question. One way is to answer the question how I know they mean it: whether or not I think what happens to us after our physical bodies give out has anything to do with what I do here on earth. For me, now, I think we all existed in Jesus before He was born on earth, and I think when He died, we died. And when He rose, we rose with Him. So no, I don’t think the end result of what happens to me after my physical body gives out is dependent on me. I think it depends on Jesus. But what that looks like from now to the end result – I think I’m wise enough to probably not know how it all works out exactly.

The other way to answer their question is literally: does it matter at all what I do? I think yes, absolutely. To a point. Which is not me trying to dodge the question. I’m just speaking from experience. And experientially, I have never taken more responsibility for my decisions and choices than when I finally accepted God’s total and unconditional love for me. Notice, for me. Not necessarily all my behaviors. But when you know, you really know that you are securely loved – there is now real motivation to do better. The odds are not against you.

The flip side is that you cannot flippantly toss aside every failure as circumstances outside of your control. And yet, to a point. I’ve experienced situations where I’ve tried everything I know to try and the situation doesn’t work out. It seems like the door is shut. But for most of life, it seems like my choices matter more than ever now. When there are no rules, per se, you can’t put the blame for your screwups onto God and blame Him for the “formula” not working out.

I started thinking about this today in terms of wondering about how people debate whether there is “the one” out there for them to marry. It seems almost like a dirty trick if there is this person out there and you don’t feel like God gave you the secret decoder to figure out who they are. Nowadays I’m more apt to say it’s not God’s character to play tricks on us like that.

The more initially terrifying thought is whether there is NOT “the one”. Then that means everyone is a possibility. Then that means it’s your responsibility alone in regards to who you pick to marry. And you alone are responsible for that decision. For better or for worse. That puts the pressure solely on you if you married too quickly or ignorantly. In hindsight even.

Taking full responsibility would mostly give the deliberations about who to marry a much more serious tone. First you have to know yourself and figure out what you really value. What is really important to you. And then drop the fairy tale romantic crap. Little girls are especially indoctrinated with that fantasy crap. From Snow White to Cinderella to Beauty and the Beast. All crap. Just hang around and wait for Mr. Prince Charming to rescue you off to wedded bliss and riches. Am I jaded or is it true that isn’t likely to happen?

And yet there is an awesome connection when you meet someone with your same values. Undeniably. My point is most people jump the gun before they even get to that point. They confuse lust with like values. Or they connect in their brokenness. Which isn’t a sure sign of failure, but isn’t a great bet alone for success either. Others connect based on enjoying similar activities. But what happens when tastes change or abilities and resources change? What reason will you have to stick around then?

At some point commitment comes into play. But I’d like to believe there is still love out there that stays mostly without feeling pressured to do so. And so there comes my God. He knows who needs who. Sometimes who we need isn’t who we want right now. Or sometimes who we need right now is not someone we should marry. Maybe they were only in your life to learn something. But you incorrectly took it somewhere farther than it was supposed to go? Having the option of learning a lesson the easy way or the harder way. Scary to consider that choice may truly be up to you.

But on the flip side, I’d say more people settle for something is better than nothing right now. And probably keep repeating the cycle over and over until the repercussions finally slow them down enough to face the wreckage behind them and consider their part in it all. I’ve been there. Not raking you over the coals without including myself.

And yet I still have hope. Looking back and thinking of all the good that was still worked out of even the worst situations. Not that the good justifies the bad. But only that I think God’s grace can be found even in our worst failures.

And is it really failure if you keep putting one foot in front of the other and are a better person today than you were yesterday? I’d say no – failure is when you give in to giving up. There are times to walk away, but for me failure is defined by completely giving up hope for any good to be found in the future and giving up on God’s love for you. If you’re there right now, ask Him to help you see Him and help you see what’s good and where your hope is. He promises you will find Him if you seek Him.

I read a story today about a man and a woman who grew up in the same town in Mexico in different classes. The male was attracted to the female from afar but they never interacted because of the class separation. Then they both moved separately to New York and ended up working in the same restaurant and eventually getting married. How do you explain that? That’s too coincidental to be random.

So I wonder. With love as well as so many other things in life, what part is up to me and what part is up to God? And I find He answers my heart cries through experiences versus words and head knowledge alone. Be prepared to live it when you ask big questions like that. And hang on for the ride! Never a dull day with Jesus. I am thankful for this epic adventure of a life.

I Want

I was listening to a really good talk by John MacMurray the other day. He mentioned that God isn’t trying to muscle His weight around to get us to submit to Him in the sense that most likely comes to mind. Rather He works, and maybe I should say loves us to the point where WE want what He knows is best for us.

How different is the wrath of God in that context? It is wrath only in the passionate sense of never giving up on us. No matter what the cost. Only for our highest good. Not for His ego.

He doesn’t need ego. He is secure. He knows who He is. He is complete without us. Actually, the Trinity exists in perfect union. Always about relationship. As I believe Baxter Kruger says, others-centered self-giving love.

Remember how God walked daily with Adam and Eve in the garden? That is communion. Let’s even leave out the religious language: that is hanging out. Wanting to be with us. Having love to give and share.

He is not interested or satisfied with an army of robot minions. It never was that way. From the beginning. This isn’t about law. We are the ones who care so much about law. God is about relationship. Always has. Always will be.

He doesn’t want you to say and do all the “right” things. He is constantly showing you who He is so you will trust Him. For your highest good. And of course, His enjoyment. In the sense of wanting to spend time with you. It’s been that way since the beginning.

For God so loved the world. Will you ask Him for healing today? Maybe ask Him to help you see Him today. And also how He sees you.